George Maponga in Masvingo
Heavy rains that have been pounding Masvingo and the rest of the country have sparked fears of flooding downstream of Tugwi-Mukosi Dam which is billed to spill for the first time ever in the current rainy season.
The dam, commissioned in 2017 is the country’s largest inland water body with a capacity of 1,8 billiom cubic metres and the Zimbabwe National Water Authoruty (Zinwa) today said it was now 83 percent full following incessant rains in its catchment since December last year.
However, sources within the water management body said readings carried this afternoon showed the dam level had soared to 84 percent.
The highest water level to accumulate in the dam was 78 percent which has already been surpassed this year amid strong indications it was on its way to spilling for the first time this year if heavy rains persist.
Zinwa and other relevant arms of Government are preparing for the worst case scenario with awareness campaigns currently underway in low lying downstream areas in the event the dam spills and precipitates flooding.
The authority’s marketing and communications manager Mrs Marjorie Munyonga in a statement said water levels in Tugwi-Mukosi continued to rise.
She said requisite precautions had been made to guarantee security of the dam structure and the surrounding environment in the event of spilling.
“Between December 24, 2020 and January 17, 2021 the lake (Tugwi-Mukosi) received 20 percent (360 million cubic metres) of its 1,8billion cubic metres storage capacity and as at January 18 (today) 2021 the lake was 83 percent full, raising the possibility of it filling up this (rainy) season,”said Mrs Munyonga.
“Zinwa, working with relevant arms of Government is working on engaging communities in downstream areas of the dam with a view to creating awareness in the event of flooding in low-lying areas should the lake spill.”
Mrs Munyonga said that the water authority would continue to closely monitor the situation and would keep stakeholders updated on the situation in the lake.
“Zinwa would however, wish to assure all its valued stakeholders that precautionary measures have been put in place to ensure safety of lake’s structure and ensure minimal damage to the environment in the event of the momentus occasion of the lake spilling.”
Seven years ago, Government was forced to effect arguably the largest ever mass evacuation of people in post-independent Zimbabwe following flooding in the Tugwi-Mukosi basin.
More than 3 000 families together with their livestock and property were evacuated to Chingwizi temporary camp in Mwenezi, about 180km away, in an operation where Zimbabwe got assistance from Namibia and Mozambique.
Water levels in the dam has risen significantly while construction was still underway threatening to breach the concrete-faced rockfill dam.
Fears were further heightened after water started seeping through the wall but the contractor Salini Impregilo, an Italian company, gave assurances the dam project was safe.
Tugwi-Mukosi is located at the confluence of Tugwi and Mukosi Rivers and the dam bisects Chivi and Masvingo districts.
It was built exclusively by Government and cost nearly US$270 million to built over a period almost 18 years.
Initially Tugwi-Mukosi was billed to irrigate 25 000 hectares but advances in irrigation technology have seen the figure being revised to 40 000ha.