HARARE - Although water levels at Lake Kariba are historically at their lowest, it is false and misleading for anyone to suggest that it is drying, Kariba District Administrator Amigo Mhlanga told the Daily News on Sunday this week.
In a wide ranging interview with our Assistant Editor Maxwell Sibanda (MS) carried in Kariba during the launch of the Zimbabwe Red Cross risk reduction scheme, Mhlanga (AM) said it was unfair for people who have never been to Kariba in recent times to make such claims which are not only lies but alarmist. He also refuted claims that the Chinese let out a lot of water during one of their operations at Kariba Dam.
Mhlanga admitted however that the water levels were historically low and that for the first time there was load shedding in Kariba.
Below are extracts from the interview:
MS: Is Lake Kariba drying up?
AM: No, not at all and we who live here and whose life revolve around the Zambezi River are surprised that people can stoop that low and lie that Lake Kariba and the dam are running dry.
MS: So there is no need for Zimbabweans to panic?
AM: People should stop lying; they should stop talking about what they haven’t seen. Yes, the water levels are low but that does not mean people will “die”. This river stretches up to Binga and people downstream have never raised concern that their source is running dry.
MS: What percentages are we talking about?
AM: It has decreased by 12 percent which is quite significant and such a drastic decline last happened in 1992 although off-hand I am not sure about the percentage drop then.
MS: Was there any improvement to the water levels since you conducted traditional rituals as had been called for by local chiefs and elders?
AM: Yes, to our surprise after the rituals we recorded a five percent increase in the water levels. We just did as the elders of this land instructed and this resulted in that increase — there were some significant changes.
As I speak, the fishermen are reporting an increase in their catch — kapenta and bream — because of that slight water rise.
MS: How is the Lake’s low water levels affecting people living in Kariba?
AM: The lake is the source of livelihood for all the people living in Kariba, be it drinking water, leisure boating and electricity for the whole nation. The fishermen have also been affected as they can no longer access other places using their boats. As a result there has been concentration of fishermen at areas with enough water. There is congestion and panic along the river banks as well.
MS: When do you expect the dam to fill up again to normal levels?
AM: The dam usually fills up in May, June up to July as the water comes from Angola.
MS: Will we get to May with the water left in the dam?
AM: I am not an expert, but yes we can go through to May because estimates were actually saying we can even go until October. But we will still have to continue with load shedding. We have to assess the situation and as we reach May, June, July we should be able to have a clearer picture.
MS: There are concerns that too much dam water could have been released and that the Chinese had a hand in all this — how true is this?
AM: We are also hearing from people that the Chinese had a hand but that is not true because no one ever released water from the dam. It wasn’t opened at all — I am an official of the Zambezi River Authority and we are updated on any operations at the dam and no such thing ever happened.
MS: How has been your working relationship with Zambians whom you share the dam with?
AM: Very cordial, we are like brothers because the dam is one source shared by two nations so you cannot afford to be arrogant.
MS: And there has been talk of repairs on the dam wall — have they commenced?
AM: Officially we have not been told of any such work having started. If there is something like that we have not been told yet.
MS: And how is the situation in terms of rains for agriculture?
AM: There has been some improvement for the past two weeks although the situation is not good at all. There isn’t much food in the fields because of the heat wave which hovered at around 40 (Degrees Celsius). Most of the crops wilted at germination stage and are a right-off.
MS: What are some of the challenges that you face as a district?
AM: Hunger is always upon us, the temperatures are too high, hence food supply is a necessity. The government is trying to alleviate the situation as they provide 85 tonnes of food for each ward each month.
MS: Are the roads accessible?
AM: That is our biggest challenge because the roads are very bad that we have resorted to using boats to transport food. Through other stakeholders like Pandenga Holdings —we have managed to ferry food by boats up to Chalala and from there we can easily distribute the food. A boat usually carries between 50 and 60 tonnes of food.