The Kariba Dam Rehabilitation Project

Wild Zambezi • 5 April 2019

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In March 2019, a team of engineers, representatives from the World Bank, EU, Embassy of Sweden, African Development Bank and journalists, met on site to discuss work on the Kariba Dam Rehabilitation Project (KDHP) which is taking place over the next 10 years.  

The Kariba Dam, built in the 1950s, captures the waters of Africa's 4th longest river, the Zambezi, providing hydro-electric energy and tourism opportunities and contributing to the economic prosperity of Zambia and Zimbabwe for more than half a century.

Designed by the French engineer and inventor Andre Coyne, who was a specialist in " arch dams" (he personally designed over 55 of them), it is an engineering success story and (according to the Zambezi River Authority which now administers the joint partnership between Zimbabwe and Zambia) "a fine example of partnership between the two countries in the development, monitoring and management of a shared water resource".

Given that Kariba Dam has been in existence for nearly 60 years, its condition constantly monitored by international engineers through the Zambezi River Authority, a decision has been made to undertake a 10-year Kariba Dam Rehabilitation Project (KDRP) to ensure the wall's safety and longevity for many more years.

This will cost $294 million, which will be provided by the European Union, World Bank, African Development Bank and the Zambezi River Authority.

Two main projects will be undertaken:-

1. The re-shaping of the "plunge pool" just below the dam wall - where the full force of water released through the spillway floodgates hits the ground below.  This will involve the construction of a "Coffer Dam" to divert water while the reshaping takes place.  

Razel -Bec, a French engineering contracting company with over 130 years experience in road, railway, energy and water supply infrastructure projects has been appointed to undertake the work which is expected to be completed in 3 years.

2.  Spillway refurbishment.  Once the plunge pool has been re-shaped and resurfaced, the six spillway gates located within the Kariba Dam wall will be completely refurbished, and an additional movable /mobile back-up gate installed on the upstream side as an emergency safety measure.

The spillway rehabilitation will take approximately five years to complete.

Watch this information video produced by the Zambezi River Authority, which describes the work involved:-

The Kariba Dam Rehabilitation Project will have no direct effects on tourism to Kariba Town, Lake Kariba or the Matusadona National Park.  In fact it will provide a a fascinating spectacle for interested visitors who may be able to view the on-going works from the Observation Point above the dam wall.

Nobody will be displaced or resettled by the project, as all the work will be carried out within the plunge pool area and on the dam wall.

The Zambezi River Authority has also been at pains to assure the public that the Kariba Dam Rehabilitation Project (KDRP) will not affect the water level of Lake Kariba or the power generating capacity of the two utility companies, ZESA and ZESCO.  


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