Feb 142016

Drought or Floods. Who Wins? Kariba Dam?



Kariba Lake shallows


Kariba: What is it?

It’s a dam. Well, not just any dam. Approximately 260 miles downstream from Victoria Falls, Kariba Dam forms the world’s largest man-made lake. It straddles the mighty Zambezi River across the Kariba Gorge between Zimbabwe and Zambia in southern Africa.

The wall that creates Lake Kariba is 420 foot (128 mtrs) high and 1,900 feet (579 mtrs) long and from this, the lake extends upstream for 170 miles (280 km). The dam supplies electricity to parts of Zambia and Zimbabwe with each country having its own power station on the north and south banks respectively.

Should floods cause Kariba Dam to fail, the ensuing torrent would be four times bigger than the Zambezi’s biggest recorded flood, in 1958, and would create a tsunami down the Zambezi Valley that would knock out Cahora Bassa dam – the fourth largest man-made lake in Africa – in central Mozambique, 300 miles (480 km) downstream and destroy 40% of southern Africa’s hydroelectric capacity.


Currently at Kariba

In late 2015, the Zimbabwean and Zambian governments, together with the European Union (EU), the World Bank, the African Development Bank and the Swedish government signed agreements for US$294 million to finance emergency dam repairs at Kariba, as reported by the World Bank.

On January 7th of 2016, the energy minister of Zambia declared that Kariba Dam was in “dire” condition.

On the 12th of January 2016 a “moderate”4.6 magnitude earthquake shook the aging dam structure but fortunately no damage was reported.

The Zambezi River Authority, which operates the dam, estimates fifteen to twenty-years before the project, which was begun in 2011, will be finished and major flooding could occur before the repairs are completed.


Action Needed Before People Die.

We can’t tell it all, so this is the latest report from The New Yorker dated 2nd February 2016. Will we have floods after this drought? Too often floods are a common occurrence after major drought in a region. Should floods occur, southern Africa stands in danger of losing two major power stations at once.

There are millions of people right now in southern Africa facing certain disaster from famine – effects of the  drought – only a miracle can fix. The impact of the loss of Kariba Dam, with all the attendant knock-on effects is a tragedy too big to contemplate.

Ecologically, socially and economically speaking, the resultant conservation catastrophe cannot even be properly measured for its devastation.


Videos Tell the Story Best.

A picture is worth a thousand words – We offer this amazing footage with grateful thanks to those who have made it available. Because of them, we have a better idea of the Kariba problem. And for myths and legends about the creation of the lake, see our 2 Aug 2015 Strange Spirit Legand of Kariba Dam article and draw your own conclusions.

Video Run Time: 4:16 min

Video Run Time:3:23 min

Video Run Time: 2:36 min



Image Courtesy of the Institute of Risk Management South Africa


World’s Largest Manmade Lake

According to the report, “Impact of the Failure of the Kariba Dam,” released by the Institute of Risk Management (IRM) of South Africa, the biggest threat to the stability of Kariba Dam is the erosion of the “plunge pool”. This is located at the foot of the wall and is where the water from the sluice gates lands in its rush to escape the concrete confines of this the worlds largest manmade lake. Originally designed to be 10-meters-deep [33 ft.], erosion over the years has increased the pools depth to 90 m [295 ft.] and has been wearing away rock near the dam’s foundations

The “blessing in disguise” is that at present, Lake Kariba is almost 90% percent empty and electricity production is nearly at a standstill. Estimates – as reported by our man in Zimbabwe – are that with normal rains, the dam will take five years to fill.

Could this be the saving of Kariba Dam?

Will its very enormity give the experts the time they need to carry out the necessary repairs? Being empty, now is the opportunity that can’t be missed!

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Meet Our Authors: The Wildmoz team, Cari and Moz, have a lifelong passion for the Bushveld and share adventures and stories about Africa's good things. Wildmoz is Africa - the cradle of life! Travel writing about wildlife, African folklore, wildlife art, Kruger Park and wildlife safari info! Taste life as it is in Africa.
 Posted by on February 14, 2016