The Gwayi-Shangani Dam site was yesterday a hive of activity with onsite engineers from the Zimbabwe National Water Authoriy (Zinwa) and Chinese contractors supervising construction works following the resumption of full-scale construction of the dam this month.
Gwayi-Shangani Dam, located in Hwange District, will be linked by two pipelines, one to the Zambezi River and another to Bulawayo.
Upon completion it is set to also benefit Binga and Lupane districts, Bulawayo as well as communities along the pipeline to the city.
The dam, with a holding capacity of 650 million cubic metres of water, and pipeline project are major components of the National Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project (NMZWP), which was first mooted in 1912, but failed to take off under the Rhodesian administration.
The contractor, China Water and Electric Corp’s engineers, had since December 2019 been held up in China due to Covid-19 induced travel restrictions.
Government has set an end of year target for completion of the dam. Staff are working round the clock to ensure that they meet the target.
Construction of the dam is part of the century old NMZWP dream whose aim is to permanently solve the Bulawayo water crisis.
The coming in of the Second Republic has seen the project receiving significant fiscal support and political will resulting in accelerated pace. Treasury in the 2021 national budget allocated $4,5 billion for completion of the Gwayi-Shangani Dam wall which is at 40 percent at the moment.
When a Chronicle news crew visited the site yesterday, Zinwa and China Water and Electric Corp engineers were on site supervising the works. Construction workers were roughening and chipping the dam’s concrete surface as they prepared to put a new concrete layer to reinforce it.
So far, since the resumption of construction works, 600 cubic metres of concrete have been rolled out on the surface. Zinwa corporate communications and marketing manager Mrs Marjorie Munyonga said it was all systems go following the return of the Chinese engineers at the site. “Work on the Gwayi-Shangani Dam wall has resumed following the return of some of the Chinese engineers who were away due to Covid-19 travel restrictions.
Work is now in full swing and we expect the programme of works to go as scheduled,” she said. Mrs Munyonga said the dam is expected to start holding water by the end of the year with Zinwa now preparing to start construction of the pipeline to Bulawayo. The construction of the dam is the first phase of the NMZWP and the second phase is the construction of the pipeline from the dam to Bulawayo. Preliminary work on the pipeline has begun after Government allocated money towards the project. Government has also floated a tender for the construction of the 260km Gwayi-Shangani Dam-Bulawayo pipeline.
Treasury has allocated $535 million towards the commencement of the pipeline, which is expected to be completed by the end of next year.
Plans are underway to establish a green belt between Bulawayo and the dam as families staying along the pipeline will have access to water for irrigation.
At 650 million cubic metres the dam’s capacity is 1,8 times bigger than that of Bulawayo’s six supply dams. The city has since 2019 been grappling with probably its worst water shortage in history largely due to the effects of climate change and depleting water levels at its supply dams located in drier Matabeleland South province.
Bulawayo gets its water from Insiza, Mtshabezi, Inyankuni, Umzingwane, Lower and Upper Ncema in the Umzingwane catchment which, due to successive drought years, have not had significant inflows but the situation has dramatically changed this year following good rains.
Matabeleland North Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister Richard Moyo said the resumption of works at Gwayi-Shangani Dam site is a reflection of Government’s commitment to completing key projects in the province in line with the development agenda.