By Tinashe Mungazi
The construction of the Gwayi-Shangani dam is set to resume after the government recently availed US$200 million towards the project which had stalled due to funding constraints and the outbreak of Covid-19.
The US$1.2 billion project is part of the ambitious Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project (MZWP) which has long been touted as the panacea to water challenges in Matabeleland.
The construction of the compacted concrete gravity arch dam which had taken several decades to take off as a result of various reasons chiefly resource constraints is now at 39 percent complete with the dam wall now eight metres high from the foundation level stretching for 200 metres across the Gwayi and Shangani rivers’ confluence.
When complete, the wall will be 72 metres high with a 10-megawatt power station and a water pump station running concurrently.
China International Water and Electric Corporation is the main contractor working in partnership with Zinwa on the project that was mooted in 1912.
Speaking to journalists on the sidelines of a familiarisation tour of the dam site by the new minister of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement, Dr Anxious Jongwe Masuka on Saturday, ZINWA chief executive officer, Engineer Taurai Maurukira said Treasury had availed US$350m towards the project with a further US$600m expected soon.
“The rest of the ancillary works which include the powerhouse and spillway can be completed by December 2021. We are within the timeframe as envisaged from the start the only break was due to Covid 19. Now that the restrictions were eased it has coincided with the release of funds.
So far Treasury has availed US$350m to allow works to resume while US$600m is earmarked to be released and that should see a very good take-off of the project. We are hopeful that after that we will be receiving consistent resourcing and the project will not stop besides the rainfall interruptions we think we are on schedule.”
Meanwhile, Minister Masuka said government was committed towards the completion of the project as evidenced by the release of more funds.
“Government is committed to seen this project through and the indications that we are going to complete this project by December 2021 is indeed a step in the right direction. What we discussed with the minister of state was the usage of water and we should start planning now since the pipeline to Bulawayo is going to take four years.
So this first phase we are pleased with the progress and that there is so much commitment by the contractor, ZINWA and the government side. We also heard that the 10MW power plant will be online by December 2021 so we can begin to get power from that and there are some discussions regarding whether we can have immediate usage of the water in areas surrounding the dam which we are going to be investigating.”
He said community involvement in the project was important in avoiding disrupting people’s lives.
“Community involvement is key so those that might be affected as we impound the water ought to be consulted so that adequate measures are taken to ensure their lives are not unduly disrupted. We need to engage everyone, the stakeholders because this is a very exciting project that is life changing not only for Bulawayo but for the areas that the pipeline will transverse,” said the minister.
Upon completion, the dam become the third-largest inland water body in the country after Tugwi-Mukosi and Mutirikwi.