French engineering firm Razel-Bec has started works on the Kariba Dam whose wall is swelling, raising the risk of cracks in the structure.
A check at the dam this week, found workers busy mobilizing equipment and creating an access road to the plunge pool.
Works include reshaping and stabilising the 80+ metre deep plunge pool and refurbishing the six floodgates.
According to a 2015 report by global risk managers AON, a collapse of the dam could pose a risk to 3.5 million people in Zambia and Zimbabwe as well as Malawi and Mozambique further downstream.In February, Razel-Bec was awarded a contract by Zambia and Zimbabwe to perform dam safety repairs at the 1,830-MW Kariba hydroelectric plant.
Erosion under 128-meter tall, 579-meter long dam has created swelling along its face and fear that the structure could eventually fail.
Should Kariba Dam break, the dam would threaten more than 3.5 million people in Zambia and Zimbabwe, as well as residents further down the Zambezi River in Mozambique and Malawi.
The repairs will be overseen by the Zambezi River Authority using a US$294 million funding package.
The financing, which includes money from ZRA, the African Development Bank, European Union, Swedish government and World Bank Group, was announced in September 2015 but not finalized until sometime in January.
The European Union would provide $100 million, the World Bank $75 million, the African Development Bank $36 million grant and $39 million loan while Sweden will offer $20 million with the balance of the $294 million repairs to be paid by Zambia and Zimbabwe, the two countries through their jointly owned Zambezi River Authority.
The deal will allow Razel-Bec to reshape the plunge pool beneath Kariba and make repairs to the dam’s spillway.
ZRA officials said they expect work on the plunge pool to be complete by 2021, and work on the spillway to be finished in 2022.
The Kariba Dam was built in the 1950s.
Razel-Bec is the civil works division of the Fayat Group of France.
It has built several dams in France, Algeria and Cameroon.