Bongani Ndlovu, Chronicle Reporter
LANDS, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development Minister Dr Anxious Masuka has said the gigantic Lake Gwayi-Shangani in Hwange District, Matabeleland North Province will be completed ahead of the 2023/24 summer cropping season.
The massive project is among the flagship infrastructure projects being undertaken by the Second Republic led by President Mnangagwa in its drive to foster inclusive economic transformation.
Situated about 6,5km from the confluence of Gwayi and Shangani rivers, the concrete gravity arch dam was designed and engineered by the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa) and has a gross capacity of 650 million cubic metres.
It is the third largest inland dam after Tugwi Mukosi and Lake Mutirikwi.
It is being constructed by the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa) through a Chinese contractor, China Water and Electric Corporation.
The dam project is part of a century-old National Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project (NMZWP), which successive administrations failed to implement.
Completion of the Lake Gwayi-Shangani project will ensure reliable water supply to Bulawayo for the next 80 years, while weaning off some of its supply dams in Matabeleland South to cater for developmental projects in the province.
The massive water project is expected to ignite rural industrialisation across the Matabeleland region where communities will have access to clean water and electricity to power local institutions.
Guided by the National Development Strategy (NDS1), Government aims to increase the proportion of people with access to potable water to 90 percent from 78 percent, by 2025.
In an interview yesterday soon after touring the Lake Gwayi Shangani project, Dr Masuka said there is tremendous progress in the ongoing construction works.
He said despite missed deadlines,Government is optimistic that the new target for completion is achievable.
“We are planning with the team on what works need to be done, including resources that are required to ensure that the project is completed ahead of the 2023-2024 cropping season. I am here to assess progress at Lake Gwayi Shangani and we did an impressive 20 metres of the dam wall, which is now 73 percent complete.” said Dr Masuka.
“We are here to plan for 2023 as indicated by the President that this project must be completed this year.”
Posting on his Twitter page recently, President Mnangagwa named Lake Gwayi Shangani as one of the top successes for 2022 as he highlighted some of the successes that the Second Republic achieved last year.
The construction of dams fulfills Government’s policy of inclusive development where no one and no place is left behind.
The project is more significant for the Matabeleland region, which had long been regarded as marginalised in terms of development.
Dr Masuka said the release of funds by the Treasury is critical in terms of speeding up the completion of the Lake Gwayi Shangani project.
Minister Dr Anxious Masuka
“Last year we did 20 metres of the dam wall and what is left is 23 metres. Given the rate of placement of concrete at four to six metres per month, it is very possible for it to be completed within the time frame as directed by His Excellency, President Mnangagwa,” he said.
Dr Masuka said as part of a whole Government approach, an inter-ministerial team will soon visit the site.
Earlier, the minister held a closed-door meeting with members of the Joint Operations Command, Zinwa and Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (Arda) officials and other arms of Government.
Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa)
“We discussed issues around reorganising the people on the basin where we are building houses for them. The Ministry of Housing and Social Amenities will be looking at that. We also discussed the conveyancing of the water along the 245km pipeline to accelerator models where we will be irrigating 20 hectares of land in each of the five districts,” said Dr Masuka.
Communities along the pipeline are set to benefit through increased agricultural activity.
“Most importantly, the communities around will witness the development emanating from this project as it will impact positively on their livelihood. So many business centres will get potable water,” he said.
“This project is a massive rural development project, which we are accelerating in line with Vision 2030. It will also provide Bulawayo with 220 mega litres of water per day for the next 80 years, which is why it must be completed on time.”
The project is a significant milestone that will transform the lives of many communities living along the pipeline from the dam to Bulawayo as irrigation schemes will be established taking advantage of the abundant water that will be pumped through the pipeline.
The dam is a roller-compacted concrete gravity dam, implying that it depends on its weight for stability. It will have an ogee-shaped overflow, with a 200-metre-long spillway while the maximum depth of water will be 59 metres.
The construction of Lake Gwayi-Shangani is the first phase of the project which also involves the laying of a 245km pipeline from the dam to Bulawayo.
Upon its completion, the dam will contribute to the country’s gross domestic product and national food security.
The Government has already identified 10 000 hectares to be put under irrigation along the pipeline. There are plans to set up fisheries while the tourism sector is also expected to benefit from the giant dam construction.
The completion of the project will also see the Government constructing a 10-megawatt power station at the massive dam, feeding into the national grid.