Kariba Dam Wall is stable says Zambezi River Authority

by WildZambezi.com via the Zambezi River Authority • 24 March 2014

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Following recent reports in the media raising concerns about the safety of the Kariba Dam Wall, The Zambezi River Authority, (the joint Zambian and Zimbabwean corporation, responsible for operating and maintaining the dam) issued the statement below on 20th March 2014, appealing for calm and reassuring the public that the dam wall is stable.

This opinion is backed by independent engineering experts.  For more detailed information, read this Wild Zambezi link which has been updated to reflect the current situation:-
Kariba Dam Wall is Safe and Professionally Maintained

20 March, 2014


Following reports in the local and international media on the status of the Kariba Dam Wall, the Zambezi River Authority (ZRA) would like to inform the general public and all stakeholders that the Kariba Dam Wall is in a stable state.

ZRA regrets the misinterpretation on the facts about the Kariba Dam Wall impending collapse which caused alarm among stakeholders and the public in general. While the situation at the Kariba Dam Wall is cause for grave concern, the engineers on the ground have the situation under control. This does not translate to an immediate calamity. However, all urgency is expected in order to avert any such catastrophe as dam failure.

The information carried in the media emanated from a co-operating partners' conference held on 12 March, 2014 in Livingstone, Zambia to mobilize funds for the rehabilitation of the Kariba Dam Wall.

The information denotes the scenarios that could possibly occur should ZRA fail to carry out maintenance and monitoring on the dam wall. ZRA carries out inspections and surveys twice a year on the Kariba Dam. In addition, every five years, a special safety inspection is undertaken with experts from France who were involved in the original design of the dam, with the last inspection having been undertaken in 2010. Other ad hoc inspections are conducted from time to time when required.

Furthermore, there are several instruments in the dam wall which measure stress, any changes or movement in the wall, water pressure and drainage. These are continually inspected and have remained intact over the last 54 years.

In recent years, concern has been raised over the safety of the Kariba Dam wall which was built over 50 years ago. The dam wall now requires a series of rehabilitation works in order to avoid gradual degradation of key dam safety features while maintaining operations levels acceptable in accordance with international operating standards.

In its five year strategic plan (2010-2014) ZRA had identified 'Undertaking critical dam maintenance programs' as one of its objectives in that period. These are being undertaken while a lasting solution is being sought, hence the co-operating partners' meeting to raise funds for the major rehabilitation works which are:

I. Plunge Pool Re-shaping. The plunge pool which is immediately downstream of the dam wall requires re-shaping and stabilization to limit scouring and erosion that could undermine the dam foundation, leading to dam failure.

II. Spillway Refurbishment. This involves designing, fabrication and installation of an emergency gate and a new gantry to prevent uncontrolled loss of water in the event of floodgate failure, which would result in water levels dropping below the minimum operational levels and interrupting power production.

III. Refurbishment of the upstream stop-beam guides and replacement of secondary concrete to prevent failure during operation of stop-beams.

To ensure concerted efforts in resource mobilization for the critical works and other projects, the Governments of Zambia and Zimbabwe, through its Council of Ministers (COM) meeting, appointed a resource mobilization committee (RMC).

It is with this background that the co-operating partners took a keen interest in the project and agreed to identify financial options, including timelines.

The Kariba Complex is central to the Southern Africa Power Pool (SAPP) with 3200MW of the 50 000MW capacity translating to 15% of SAPP total power output. 50% of the Zambia/Zimbabwe energy output is equivalent to Angola's total needs and double Namibia's needs. (WB Report 2010).

The humanitarian implication at 273km3 of flood water ( 185km3 from Kariba Dam and 52km3 from Caborra Bassa) would be four times the largest recorded release at 61km3 over 90 days during the 1958/59 Kariba Dam Construction.

ZRA is currently updating its Emergency Preparedness Plan for the Lower Zambezi and also enhancing its internal processes and procedures for preparedness.

ZRA takes this opportunity to re-assure the public and all our stakeholders that there is no need to panic as the situation is under control. ZRA will continue to fulfill its mandate of monitoring, maintenance and corrective measures to protect the dam and ensure its safety.

Elizabeth Karonga
Public Relations & Communications Manager
Zambezi River Authority
Zim Cell +263 773002978;
Zam Cell: +260 977 318735
Direct Line +260 211 230551
Email: karonga@zaraho.org.zm;  or lizkaronga@yahoo.com

KARIBA DAM 50TH ANNIVERSARY HISTORICAL DVD:   There is a special DVD, containing fascinating historical footage and documentaries about the building of the Kariba Dam (see picture).  You can obtain a copy from Bill Sykes, History Society of Zimbabwe:  E-mail: sykesbill@zol.co.zw

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