The completion of the Kariba Dam in 1959 was hailed as an extraordinary feat of man’s ingenuity in his quest to tailor the forces of nature to suit his needs.
The mines on the Copperbelt and hundreds of communities in the country and in neighbouring Zimbabwe stood to benefit from hydro-electricity that the dam was meant to generate.
But 55 years later, the forces of nature that were thought to have been tamed have returned to haunt the project and pose an engineering puzzle that has never been seen before in dam engineering in the world.
After being approached to provide financial support required in saving Kariba Dam which is jointly owned by Zambia and Zimbabwe, African Development Bank (AfDB) President Donald Kaberuka arrived in Zambia on Tuesday, 22nd July, 2014. He was on a mission to, among other things, see for himself the structural danger that has left Kariba Dam on the verge of collapse.
The AfDB, which was founded in 1964, is a multilateral development finance institution established to contribute to the economic development and social progress of African countries. It is comprised the African Development Bank, the African Development Fund and the Nigeria Trust Fund.
It was founded to fight poverty and improve living conditions in Africa through promoting investment of public and private capital in projects and programmes that are likely to contribute to the economic and social development of African states.
The Tunisia based bank which was originally headquartered in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, is a financial provider to African governments and private companies investing in regional member countries.
The bank is currently considering a request to fund construction of the US$259 million Kazungula Bridge across the Zambezi River between Zambia and Botswana.
The banks concern in the Kariba Dam scenario arises from the multiple economic threats that a weakened Kariba Dam poses to the whole of Southern Africa.
Firstly, an estimated 3.5 million people could have their communities flooded downstream in Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
This could mean widespread loss of lives and property.
Secondly, Southern Africa is already facing an electricity supply deficit.
By Stephen Kapambwe
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