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article imageUpdate: Tokwe Mukorsi dam in Zimbabwe

By Amanda Payne     Feb 25, 2014 in Environment
Masvingo - Digital Journal has been following closely events surrounding the Tokwe Mukorsi dam in the Masvingo Province of Zimbabwe.
Previously, we reported that the dam wall is close to bursting following heavy rains in the area. While information on the situation is scarce, it is now clear that the dam wall is still holding due to the efforts of the Italian engineers on site. However, water continues to build up behind the dam, causing widespread flooding.
A satellite photograph released by ReliefWeb shows the extent of the flooding upstream of the dam.
Satellite image of the flooded area by Unitar UNOSAT
Satellite image of the flooded area by Unitar UNOSAT
Unitar Unosat
In a speech to the Senate on February 15, Minister of Local Government, Public works and National Housing, Dr Chombo, said:
"Members will recall that the Tokwe Mukorsi Dam construction was a planned project, whose impact had the outcome of displacing 6393 families from the flood basin to designated relocation sites." Dr Chombo explained that plans had been in place for a three phase evacuation of people and livestock from the path of the water of the reservoir. However, "The incessant rains which have fallen countrywide have had the effect of distorting the whole planned and staggered process into one, major evaluation process, instead of the projected four years."
The area was declared a state of disaster as of February 9, 2014 and emergency services were sent in to help move the affected families. Fifty people who had been marooned were airlifted to safety by the Air Force of Zimbabwe.
Meanwhile, a report in the Daily News says that the director of insurance company Champions Insurance says their risk analysis shows that the dam wall is unlikely to collapse. Munyaradzi Kativhu told the Daily News:
"We carried out a risk management analysis and the dam wall is not collapsing. The dam wall was built through compacting rocks and these rocks have not been plastered. So the floods were caused by huge volumes of water which perforated through the dam wall.The only damage that we saw was that rocks were now blocking the access roads to the dam. Otherwise there is no damage to the wall. Everything is going according to plan and as we speak construction is underway."
It is not clear, however, whether this particular insurance company is linked in any way to the construction of the dam.
Alick Macheso, a well known musician and Zimbabwe Red Cross Humanitarian Ambassador has visited the area to see for himself how the people are struggling. Many are relying on donkey carts to move themselves out of the danger zone. In an editorial, NewsDay asks why it is that Macheso was happy to visit the area yet neither the President, Robert Mugabe, or leader of the opposition, Morgan Tsvangirai have travelled to the disaster zone. The editorial contrasts the millions spent on the 90th birthday celebrations of President Mugabe while very little is being done to help the flood victims.
Clarity on the situation is difficult to come by but what is clear is that thousands have been displaced by the floods and are suffering as a result.The dam wall may still be holding but the disaster is still unfolding.
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