AND 60 years later…Tokwe-Mukosi roars into life

The construction of Tokwe-Mukosi Dam (an adulteration of Tugwi and Mukosi) has, for a variety of reasons, been on the drawing board for years since the idea was mooted in 1955.

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The Rhodesians then were on a “green revolution” of the country, which saw them build dams like Kyle (now Mutirikwi), McIlwaine (Chivero), after the completion of Lake Kariba.

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Tokwe-Mukosi, sited on the confluence of the Tugwi and Mukosi rivers, was meant to be life-changing in that it was to be the biggest inland water reservoir in the country. But a number of factors, from the unilateral declaration of independence by Ian Smith, which saw Zimbabwe embark on a protracted war of liberation till 1980, to the fall of the local currency against major currencies in 1998, meant that the work on the dam has been protracted since then.

\n\nUpstream . . . A 40-cm impervious concrete membrane prevents water from seeping through the dam wall\nDownstream . . . The rock-fill method used in the construction of Tokwe-Mukosi is the first of its kind in the country\n\n

Now sitting on 90 percent completion, with its completion and commissioning earmarked for this year, Tokwe-Mukosi is likely to change the face of the environs within which it sits.

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The primary function of the dam is to supply water for irrigation purposes, with potential to irrigate 25 000 hectares of sugar cane. To put into context how Tokwe-Mukosi is likely to change the face of southern Masvingo, the Triangle sugar estates, which lie roughly 50 kilometres to the north-east, has 30 000 hectares of sugar under irrigation.

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Besides sugar cane, the other option would be to put in place a citrus plantation, which the weather conditions in the Lowveld favour.

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But such a massive body of water, with a full supply capacity of 1,8 billion mega-litres of water, which makes it the biggest inland water reservoir in the country, would be put to waste if it is confined to irrigation only.

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Paul Dengu, the resident engineer of the dam, said there are several other options that the dam can be put to profitable use.

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“For instance, the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Management can embark on eco-tourism projects and/or establish fisheries.

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“Funding permitting, the Government can add a facility to generate power, of which a provision has already been made on the construction of the dam, if such a decision is to be made. The dam has a capacity to generate up to 15 megawatts of electricity,” explained Eng Dengu.

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The first of its kind in the country, in that it is a concrete-faced rockfill dam, the dam wall will sit at a height of 89,2 metres from the river bed on completion.

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In comparison, Karigamombe Building in Harare, at 20 floors high, stands 92 metres above the ground. That is a difference of only 2,8 metres with the maximum height of the dam.

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Explaining the rockfill structure, Eng Dengu said most of the dams in the country, for example, Chivero and Osbourne, are earth-fill dams. “But just the same manner in which the Great Zimbabwe was built, Tokwe-Mukosi Dam used rock, without any mortar, from the ground up.

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But because water can flow through the rock fill, we had to put an impervious concrete face, about 40 centimetres thick, to hold up the water.”

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Covering some 9 640 hectares at full supply level and with a catchment area of over 7 000 square kilometres, the dam has since displaced about 5 000 families in its basin, they have since been relocated to Chingwizi. (See another story on “Life not so rosy inside Chingwizi”)

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Initially pencilled in for completion this June, the project has since been moved to probably the end of the year as the Government still owes major contractors, Italian joint venture company Salini-Impregilo, some $84 million for work already done.

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On Tuesday, Minister of Finance and Economic Development Mr Patrick Chinamasa, together with his Environment, Water and Climate counterpart, Mr Saviour Kasukuwere, toured the project, whereupon a request for $30 million was made to Tongaat Hullet (who are meant to benefit from the irrigation water supply).

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But that Tokwe-Mukosi is sitting on 90 percent completion has not been a stroll in the park.

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With the idea mooted in 1955, construction could not begin there and then, as the Rhodesians, soon after declaring unilateral independence, waged a bitter war that saw the country gaining independence in 1980. The financial resources that could have been used in the construction of the dam, however, were channelled to the war.

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At independence, the new Government was saddled with a number of challenges and the dam only got the attention it deserved around the 90s. Cabinet approval came in 1995 and the tender was floated in 1996.

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Just when construction was to begin, the Zimbabwean dollar fell, on the now infamous Black Friday on November 14 1997, rendering work which was meant to commence the following year, largely academic. Hence construction, which had started in March 1998, stopped in April the following year.

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Up to December 2001, the project was under full suspension and when construction resumed, there were a number of amendments to the tender agreement, part of which was the agreement that part of the payment to the project was to be in local currency (25 percent) with the remainder being in foreign currency.

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From December 2001, construction went on to April 2004, whereupon another host of problems forced the suspension of the project.

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And it was not until July 2011 that the final phase of the completion of the project took into full stride, a development that Eng Dengu attributes in large part to the adoption of the multi-currency regime.

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“When the country adopted multi-currencies, it was easier to negotiate for the resumption of works at this project and now we can safely say we are just 10 percent away,” he said.

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Evidently, most of the operations at the dam site are winding up, with most of the machinery that has already played its part being re-assigned elsewhere.

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“We are winding operations, what is left of the project is the smaller part. As soon as the contractor and the owner of the project (Government) iron out their differences, we can safely say by the end of this year we should be done with this project.

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“Everyone now wants the project done, to be at the back of their minds and hopefully that will be soon,” he added.

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