If you have ever tried to hold back a very determined four year old from a jar of candy within his reach, then you might just begin to have a tiny gossamer of an idea of what it must have been like to hold back more than 180 billion tones of water to damn the second largest river in Africa, the mighty Zambezi river.
The construction of the Kariba damn between 1956 and 1960 is said to be “one of the engineering wonders of the world” and was considered as a hopeful leap into the future, creating at the time the largest man-made lake in the world.
A double curvature concrete arch dam wall standing at a height of 128 metres above the river bed and spanning 617 metres across the Kariba gorge, the Kariba damn wall remains an extraordinary spectacle to this day.
The Dam Wall is host to two of Southern Africa’s most important electricity generating stations, Kariba North Bank Power Station on the Zambian side and Kariba South Bank Power Station on the Zimbabwean side, between them generating a total of 1,320 Mega Watts of electricity.
Apart from being one of the most important sources of energy in the Southern Region of Africa, the formation of Lake Kariba made a considerable economic contribution to both Zambia and Zimbabwe. It led to the opening up of a vibrant commercial fishing industry and the rise of a successful tourism industry particularly in the town of Siavonga, which is home to a variety of fantastic accommodation with amazing lake views, water sports, sports fishing and offers breathtaking scenery of diverse fauna and flora.
The construction of the Kariba damn however, was shrouded in controversy, both environmentally and socially. Its construction would mean that local villages surrounding that area would have to be relocated and literally thousands of wild animals would lose their habitats. Vast areas of forest and scrub would also have to be destroyed.
In addition final construction and the addition of the Kariba North Power cavern was not completed until 1977 due to largely political problems. Analysis of the economic advantages convinced the authorities that the ultimate benefit to the people would outweigh the loss of wildlife and disturbance to people’s lives and today this has proven to be true.
This year marks the 50th year since the Kariba damn was opened. Siavonga has dedicated the month of May 2010 as the Anniversary Month for 50 years of Lake Kariba’s existence.
There is lots of exciting information about the Kariba damn which I hope to share with you over the weeks. If you’re interested in seeing the Kariba damn or finding out more about great places to stay and fun things to do in Siavonga, see our website!
Posted by Nambeye Katebe