By George Maponga in Masvingo
The long-awaited Tokwe-Mukosi Dam in the arid southern Masvingo, financed by Government at a cost of nearly $260 million, has started collecting water after construction was completed in December last year.
More than 200 million cubic metres of water having already accumulated. Commissioning of the dam, whose construction started almost 18 years ago, is expected soon.
Tokwe-Mukosi Dam becomes Zimbabwe’s largest inland water body with a capacity of 1,8 billion cubic metres when full.
Its completion has jolted Government, to start crafting an irrigation master plan with southern parts of Mwenezi, Chiredzi and Matibi 2 communal lands expected to turn into greenbelts through irrigation.
Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa) corporate communications officer Mr Tsungirirai Shoriwa yesterday said Tokwe-Mukosi Dam was completed on December 10 last year.
He said the main contractor-Salini Impregilo of Italy still maintained presence at the dam site doing some final touch ups to ready the dam for its impending commissioning.
“Tokwe-Mukosi Dam is now complete and started impounding water on December 10, 2016,’’ said Mr Shoriwa.
“The contractor (Salini Impregilo) is still on (the dam) site finalising some minor works to tidy the site. Preparations for the commissioning of the dam are ongoing and once all the logistics are in place, the commissioning will take place,’’ he added.
Mr Shoriwa said completion of Tokwe-Mukosi Dam would ramp up irrigation in the Lowveld while reducing pressure for water from existing dams that of late have been struggling to irrigate sugar plantations because of low levels blamed on recurrent droughts caused by climate change.
“As of January 17, 2017, the dam held 210 million cubic metres of water, which is capable of irrigating at least 3 000 hectares and this will certainly bring huge relief to the irrigating communities in the Lowveld, who have been largely reliant on Mutirikwi and other dams in the region,’’ said Mr Shoriwa.
At full capacity, Tokwe-Mukosi will irrigate more than 25 000 hectares transforming Masvingo province into Zimbabwe’s irrigation hub and the country’s breadbasket.
Preliminary estimates indicate that at least $250 million will be required to develop land to be irrigated by Tokwe-Mukosi Dam water with Government having already invited private companies to exploit the opportunity and avail funds for irrigation development.
Besides turning arid parts of Mwenezi, Chiredzi and Matibi 2 communal lands into perennial greenbelts, the dam will also result in a net jump of annual sugar production in the Lowveld by 15 percent.
The Lowveld sugar industry will immensely benefit from Tokwe-Mukosi which will provide an alternative source of water with reduced rainfall, failing to fill traditional sources of water such as Lake Mutirikwi, Manjirenji, Muzhwi and Bangala dams.
Plans are also afoot to set up Zimbabwe’s second ethanol plant at Nuanetsi Ranch in Mwenezi at a cost of $400 million with the investor Zimbabwe Bio Energy fronted by businessman Mr Billy Rautenbach pinning the investment on water from Tokwe-Mukosi Dam.
Tokwe-Mukosi will also boost the economic fortunes of parts of Chivi and Masvingo districts through tourism as hotels and casinos are planned along the dam’s scenic shores.
The dam will also generate over 15 megawatts of electricity enough to light up the whole of Masvingo with at least $20 million required to install a hydro-power plant at Zimbabwe’s newest dam.
Government, through the Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, also plans to open a new mega-national park around Tokwe-Mukosi Dam with wildlife expected to be trans-located from other local wildlife sanctuaries.
Completion of Tokwe-Mukosi Dam was delayed as work at the dam was periodically affected by stoppage owing to payment problems between Government and the main contractor. The Chronicle