Nqobile Tshili, Chronicle Reporter
LAKE Gwayi-Shangani will start receiving significant inflows in the 2021/22 rain season while Bulawayo and surrounding communities could start drawing water from it by the end of next year.
Government has already tasked six contractors with laying the 245km pipeline from Gwayi-Shangani to Bulawayo and works should be completed by the end of next year.
The inflows will be regardless of missed deadlines for completion of the dam set for the end of the year due to limited supply of cement, the start of the rain season and damage to one plant that was struck by lightning.
Government had set end of this year as the deadline for completion of Lake Gwayi-Shangani, formerly Gwayi-Shangani Dam.
The lake, which has 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 had failed to take off under previous administrations.
Upon completion, the pipeline will carry 160 000 megalitres of water to Bulawayo daily, which will vastly improve water and sanitation requirements of the city.
Speaking at the commissioning of the 245km Gwayi-Shangani-Bulawayo pipeline groundbreaking in February, President Mnangagwa said completion of the (NMZWP) will become a reality under his administration.
Government allocated $4,5 billion in the 2021 National Budget to ensure that construction works are not disrupted.
Government also allocated $535 million for commencement of work on the 245km Gwayi-Shangani-Bulawayo pipeline, which should be completed by December next year.
Presenting the 2022 National Budget last Thursday, Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube allocated $3,6 billion towards completion of the strategic Lake Gwayi-Shangani.
In a statement on Sunday, the Zinwa board said significant progress had been made in the construction of Lake Gwayi-Shangani and it would start collecting water in the 2021/22 rain season.
“The lake is expected to start collecting water this season; up to 20 million cubic metres by April 2022. The implications for this are twofold: first there will be water to supply Bulawayo and surrounding communities as planned from the end of the 2022, and secondly there will not be any displacement of people during the rain season,” reads the Zinwa statement.
“All other project components are proceeding as planned with the pipeline to Bulawayo and associated water treatment works expected to be functional before the end of 2022.”
After completion, at least 500 families will be relocated, as they will be at risk to flooding.
The Zinwa board said a shortage of raw materials has affected construction works resulting in delays.
“Tremendous progress has been made regarding the lake, which is now 59 percent complete. However, further progress has been interrupted by a lightning strike at the concrete batching plant at the project site on 30 October 2021, cement supply constraints and the onset of the rainy season, which substantially slowed down roller compaction work.
It is therefore expected that the dam will be at least 62 percent complete by the end of the year,” read the statement.
The board said funds that have been channeled towards constructing of Lake Gwayi-Shangani prove the national importance of the project, as it will provide potable water and transform Matabeleland region into a green belt.
“The Government of Zimbabwe has accelerated the project on water supply to Bulawayo and integrated this into the new approach to water infrastructure development, whose components are (a) Lake Gwayi-Shangani construction (2) drinking water supply to Bulawayo, through the construction of the 251km pipeline and supplying water to surrounding areas, including Dete, schools, clinics and rural service centres (3) irrigation development around Gwayi-Shangani and at least six irrigation and rural development nodes along the Gwayi-Shangani pipeline, (4) electricity generation and (5) fisheries and tourism development.”
Matabeleland North Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister Richard Moyo commended work that has been put into construction of the lake so far.
He said Government was also aware of challenges that have stalled the construction works.
“The public must know that Government and the contractor are committed towards ensuring that the project is completed within set timeframes. Unfortunately, due to some of the challenges, including shortage of cement, the project was delayed, but Government is totally committed to ensuring that the dam is completed by early next year.
This dam is significant to the development trajectory of Matabeleland region as it will contribute towards attainment of food security, while providing drinking water to communities up to Bulawayo. We are satisfied with what has been done so far,” said Minister Moyo. — @nqotshili