Some (Kariba) Dam trivia or so you don’t have to

Over sixty years a group of people were inspired by the dynamism of the United States of America and the example of the Grand Coulee Dam, to build a dam in the middle of Africa to supply electricity to the copper mines of the then Northern Rhodesia now Zambia. The result of their vision is the Kariba dam. Its projected cost in 1955 was approximately £80 milion.

A lot of mistakes were made mostly through ignorance. Secondly the planners were going by the example of the Grand Coulee dam which meant that the top priority was hydro-electricity. The social and environmental impacts were simply brushed aside with the Zambesi valley considered to be largely marginal country, plagued by Malaria, Schistosomiasis and Sleeping sickness. (This would a great surprise to the Tonga (Batonka) people). £4 Million was set aside to fund the resettlement of the then estimated 30 000 people requiring resettlement. The power elites at the time, the white folks actually were in greater number than the actual 60 000 displaced Tonga (Batonka) people. While it is easy to construct the problems of Kariba in terms of colonialism and race, the tragedy of the human species means that Kariba’s problems and benefits are not unique and found everywhere large dams are constructed.

The Tonga people who were displaced should have got a better deal. If I were negotiating compensation, fishing rights, wildlife rights and increases in land values upto 100km from the dam would have to be included. The dam actually increased the rainfall as far south as Karoi.

Kariba by water volume is still listed as the third biggest dam in the world.

relative sizes of some dams   – values extracted from Wikipedia, in no particular order.

Dam Locale Vol km³ water ret

Kariba Dam	       Zambia/Zimbabwe	                  160.0(ave)
Cahora Basa	       Mozambique	                   55.8

Lake Gordon	       Tasmania Australia	           12.5
Lake Argyle            Western Australia                   10.6
Burdekin	       Queensland Australia	            1.8
Wivenhoe	       Queensland Australia	            1.16
Warragamba 	       NSW Australia	                    2.03

Three Gorges dam	China	                           39.3
Aswan high dam	        Egypt	                          111.0
Hoover dam	        USA	                           32.5

I was unable to locate a water volume for the Grand Coulee Dam.

Fun facts

Kariba at its maximum volume of 180 km³ holds the equivalent of 360 Sydney Harbours.

Kariba lies at the bottom end of the Great Rift Valley and is in a seismic active zone. It has generated its own earthquakes including one at 6.1 on the Richter scale. The Newcastle, Australia earthquake of 1989 was 5.6.

In 2007 terms, using the inflation calculator of  the Bank of England, the cost of Kariba  would be £1.506 billion or approximately AU$3.59 billion or US$3 billion. To give an idea of scale, the estimated cost of the 2012 London olympics in 2007 is £9.6 billion or for an Australian perspective, in 2007 terms, the cost of the Snowy Mountain scheme was AU$5.08 billion.

In Zambian terms the cost in 2007 terms of Kariba would be ZMK 12 trillion.

In Zimbabwean terms using the unofficial rate suggested by the CIA worldbook of ZIM$800 000 to the US$, the cost in 2007 terms would ZIM$2.4 quintillion  (using US nomenclature).

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