18 November 2004

Zimbabwe: Mazowe Dam Almost Dry

Harare — MAZOWE Dam has almost dried up, threatening aquatic life as well as the future of irrigation on surrounding farms that include Mazowe Citrus farm.

The dam, which last spilled in 2001, has been in a similar situation before.

Also under threat is the future of the tourism industry that had blossomed at the dam.

Domestic tourists from Harare, Bindura and surrounding areas would go to the dam to fish and engage in canoeing, among other water sports.

The Herald recently toured the dam and discovered that aquatic life such as fish was under greatest danger.

Poachers are having a field day harvesting the fish, which are now easy to catch because of the low water levels in the dam.

A worker at the dam, who declined to be named, attributed the drying-up to a number of small dams that had been built upstream resulting in reduced flow into Mazowe Dam.

There is, however, another theory suggesting that a housing development in Marlborough, Harare, has affected the flow of water into the dam.

The theory says the houses were built on the dam's catchment area.

Other people interviewed in Mazowe said gold panners were causing siltation in the dam.

Gold panning is rife in Mazowe and Nyanenhombo rivers, which are all upst- ream.

Workers at the dam, who now spend most of their time in running battles with fish poachers, said the dam almost dried up during the 1984/1985 season and again in 1996.

The dam reportedly only filled up after some traditional rituals were conducted.

Water is said to have trickled from the mountains surrounding the dam and gradually filled up the dam.

Still another cause for the drying-up of the dam has been given.

A spirit medium living a few metres from the dam says the dam is drying up because tradition is not being respected.

She said several pleas to Government authorities to avert disaster have fallen on deaf ears.

She said the police who had been sent to evict her destroyed some items and articles belonging to her ancestors.

The burning is said to have angered the ancestors who now demand compensation for the damaged items.

The burnt items included cloths and some traditional rods (tsvimbo dzechivanhu).

The dam, which has a full holding capacity of 39,5 million cubic metres, is located some 35km north of Harare and has a tiny catchment area.

Built in 1920 to service the citrus estates owned by Anglo American Corporation, Mazowe Dam has in recent years received insignificant inflows.

In 1995, fish had to be translocated to a nearby sanctuary after water had dwindled to very low levels just before the dam dried up.

The rescue, dubbed Operation Restore Hope, saved the fish just in time.

The vast Mazoe Citrus Estates supply the whole country with most of its citrus requirements.

Most fruit juice manufacturers also get their supply of oranges from the estates, which are now owned by Interfresh.

Workers at the dam said the estates have temporarily stopped using the water for irrigation purposes and have resorted to boreholes but the water is insufficient for the huge hectarage.

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