50 Interesting Facts About The Kariba Dam

Last updated on November 27th, 2022

35. Project Financing

At US 294 million dollars, the repairs will cost more than the dam itself. Fortunately, the following are happy to contribute: the Zambezi River Authority, Africa Development Bank, the European Union, the Swedish Government, and the World Bank.

36. Rehab Timeline

Rehabilitation took one step at a time. The impact assessments, environmental plans, and social management strategies were due in 2015. If things go well, the plunge pool and the spillway projects should finish in 2019 and 2023.

37. Reshaping the Plunge Pool

It is a bold move. Any error would be costly and fatal. Divers had to build a cofferdam underwater to protect the worksite. They even blasted the river bed and removed soft rock before pouring concrete for strength.

38. The Sluice Gate Problem

Expanding concrete can jam the spillway gates. That is a big problem. If they cannot open, water may spill over from the top and break the wall. And if they cannot close, downstream communities may suffer from floods. Reliable control is crucial.

39. Emergency Gate Installation

Everyone needs a backup plan. The Kariba Dam obtained emergency gates with a motorized gantry crane to ensure smooth operation, no matter what. The materials were made off-site and transported to the dam for assembly.

40. Mini Coffer Dam

How do you create a dry workspace inside a dam? Install a temporary water shield near the wall and pump the water out. Workers did this before they could refurbish the spillway, one gate at a time.

Random Facts about the Kariba Dam

41. Inducing Earthquakes

Can water induce earthquakes? Perhaps. Scientists say that the tremendous volume of the reservoir may be responsible for 20 seismic activities in the region, all measured at magnitude 5.0 and above on the Richter scale.

42. Lake Inhabitants

The lake is home to an eclectic mix of animals. Many had to flee the flood, but the hippopotamus and Nile crocodile thrived. Tigerfish and kapenta also support the local economy.

Large herd of buffalo drinking from Lake Kariba.
Large herd of buffalo drinking from Lake Kariba. Facts about Kariba dam. Photo © Paula Joyce

43. On the Shorelines

Prey will always attract predators. Water birds, like fish eagles and cormorants, are always on patrol. Further inland, you will also see significant numbers of lions, cheetahs, leopards, elephants, and buffalos.

44. Recreational Park

The fragile ecology of Lake Kariba needs protection from poachers. Zimbabwe ensured continuous monitoring by turning it into a recreational park. The revenue goes into conservation efforts.

45. Wildlife Rescue

It was not just people that lost their homes. Flooding the reservoir displaced countless animals. Concerned locals helped, wading into the waters to secure trapped beasts. And the project name? Operation Noah, of course.

46. Rescue Statistics

Rescue workers found them a new home: the Matusadona National Park on the mainland. More than 6,000 animals were relocated, including antelopes, rhinoceros, birds, snakes, zebras, and lions. The operation lasted from 1958 to 1964.

47. Forced Resettlement

The massive reservoir had a price: the forced resettlement of 57,000 Tonga people along the Zambezi shores. Families had to say goodbye to their ancestral lands before the flood sank them underwater.

48. Government Support

The government stretched its meager budget for the refugees. They promoted cash crops, organized cooperative markets, built schools, and gave loans. However, people in the new settlements struggled to adapt.

49. Aiming for Self-determination

Locals sought empowerment despite their challenges. In 2002, they formed the Basilwizi Trust to run development projects that could improve their lives. The trust also gave them a voice in the decision-making process.

50. Kariba Islands

Tourists can visit the beautiful islands on the lake. Those who want to enjoy scenic views and charming lodges can go to Chete, Maaze, and Antelope Islands. The magnificent Victoria Falls, named after the English queen, is also a must-see.

Kariba Dam – quick facts and vital statistics

Official nameKariba Dam
Coordinates16°31′20″S 28°45′42″E
Number of turbines installledNorth: 4 x 150 MW (200,000 hp), 2 x 180 MW (240,000 hp) Francis-type
South: 6 x 125 MW (168,000 hp), 2 x 150 MW (200,000 hp) Francis-type
Installed capacity1626 MW
Type of damarch dam
LocatedZambia and Zimbabwe
Purposeregional energy security and economic development
Owned byZambezi River Authority
CostUS 480 million
ImpoundsZambezi River
ReservoirLake Kariba

Total capacity: 180 km3
Height128 m (420 ft)
Length579 m (1,900 ft)
Notes1. At the time it was completed in 1959, Kariba had the biggest dam wall in the world. Kariba lake – the reservoir created by the scheme – was the biggest artificial lake in the world.
Last updatedNovember 26, 2022