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Delays in US$300 million Kariba Dam wall project irk financiers



KARIBA — Development partners financing the nearly US$300 million Kariba Dam Rehabilitation project have expressed concern over delays in completing expansion works at the lake after the Zambezi River Authority (ZRA) missed the completion deadline by four years, resulting in rising costs.


Kariba, the largest man-made lake in the world by water storage volume, is currently administered by the ZRA, an authority jointly administered by Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The World Bank, African Development Bank, European Union and the Swedish International Development Corporation (Sida) are the key financiers.

Under the current rehabilitation project, the plunge pool will be reshaped in order to dissipate energy from the spilled water, thereby reducing the energy on impact and hence bedrock erosion which could undermine the dam foundation, leading to structural failure.

The project will rehabilitate the spillway gates to avoid possible jamming in the open or closed positions both which would result in dam failure and catastrophic regional loss of lives, livelihoods, assets and power.

The ZRA is working with engineers from EU countries such as France in rehabilitating the dam.

While the ZRA has been appealing for the extension of the two key projects — reshaping the plunge pool and rehabilitating the spill way — partners are not keen on extending the timelines.

Head of the EU mission in Zambia and Comesa Karolina Stasiak told delegates attending a tour of the dam wall that the ZRA should speed up rehabilitation works.

According to officials, the plunge pool reshaping is currently 80% while the spillway rehabilitation is 67% done. The works to reshape the plunge pool are fully financed by the EU.

The current EU contribution, Stasiak said, is more than 113 million euros, which is a non-reimbursable grant.

“The works were supposed to be completed in three years and, if all goes well, they will be completed in seven years, around the third quarter of 2024,” Stasiak said.

“Our initial grant has been increased three times: 10 million euros were added in 2020 and 30 million euros in 2023. In times where financial allocations are mainly addressed to areas of the globe in conflict and deep political crises. I can assure you that finding these additional funds was not an easy exercise.

“I would urge the contractor, the supervisor and the National Authorising Office to work in the most collaborative way and to do everything possible to avoid further delays and consequent claims and cost increases, which cannot be covered by the EU when additional costs are related to delays in decision-making.”

Stasiak told The NewsHawks on the sidelines of her presentation that contractors are being paid US$500 000 monthly, warning that further delays would push up the total cost of the project.

Incoming World Bank country manager for Zimbabwe Enedia Fernandes said while the rehabilitation project was expected to increase the lifespan of the dam from 50 to 100 years, the multilateral lender is unhappy with the delays.

The AfDB, the World Bank had initially provided US$75 million towards rehabilitation while Sweden has provided US$25 million, Fernandes said.

“While significant progress has been made on both the plunge pool and the spillway rehabilitation, the project has faced challenges over the years including the Covid pandemic, the current geological issues, technical requirements, disruptions of supplies and protracted procurement processes among others,” she said.

“While we are very happy with these achievements, we want to take this opportunity to raise concern regarding the risk of delays of this rehabilitation . . . We urge ZRA, the consultants and the contractors to address all key issues affecting these works. It has taken tremendous effort to align resources and support for the rehabilitation of this critical dam. We sincerely hope that we use this critical opportunity to complete the required rehabilitation works and safeguard regional and energy security for generations to come.”

Zimbabwe, which is currently ineligible to access concessional funding from multilateral creditors such as the World Bank, received grants as part of its contribution towards the works while Zambia received long-term loans from creditors.

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