Thursday, April 10, 2014

Kariba Dam collapse fears and disaster preparedness in Zimbabwe

IRIN: Could fears of the imminent collapse of the more than five-decade-old Kariba Dam on the Zambezi river between Zimbabwe and Zambia spur Zimbabwe into more effective disaster preparedness?

In early March, engineers at a conference organized by the Zambezi River Authority (ZRA, a Zambia-Zimbabwe organization which manages the Kariba Dam) warned that the 128-metre-high dam could collapse, threatening at least 3.5 million people especially in Mozambique and Malawi.

Years of erosion had made the foundations of the dam weaker, said engineers. "Anything is possible, so there is a need to act to avoid risk and minimize panic,” Modibo Traore, head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance (OCHA) in Zimbabwe, told IRIN. The Kariba Dam holds one of the largest man-made expanses of water in the world.

ZRA says the “situation at the Kariba Dam wall is a cause for grave concern”, and “all urgency is expected in order to avert any such catastrophe as dam failure”. It acknowledged the need for major repairs.

Disaster preparedness in Zimbabwe is extremely weak, if the example of recent flooding involving a partially built dam is anything to go by. In February, flooding of the Tokwe-Mukosi dam in southeastern Zimbabwe displaced thousands of people, and forced the government to declare it a national disaster...

The Kariba Dam in Zimbabwe, shot by Benbbb (Ben Bird), public domain 

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