ENVIRONMENT, Water and Climate Change Minister Saviour Kasukuwere has admitted that government bungled in its handling of the Tokwe Murkosi flooding disaster, revealing that engineers had also not foreseen such a catastrophe.
Kasukuwere told Senators last week that authorities failed in their planning and that engineers had not budgeted for the heavy rains that overwhelmed the area, rendering thousands of people homeless.
“I agree with the Honourable chief (Fortune Charumbira) that we failed in our planning because we did not prepare for the compensation to the people who were disturbed by the floods. According to our plan, the climate change was unpredictable; we did not expect such a catastrophe to happen. As a result, we were forced to move people out of the area and resettle them elsewhere within a week,” he said in response to a question from president of the Chiefs Council, Charumbira, on the state of affairs in the area.
“I must also admit that as a government we delayed and we were not pro-active because we should have predicted that since we have had such rains, we should have prepared for ways and means of assisting people during the flood season but we are working on that.”
The World’s Dams Association emphasises that when people are moved due to floods, they must be compensated by government for, among others, the trauma endured. When completed, Tokwe Murkosi would benefit five irrigation schemes billed to be the largest small-scale irrigation development in Zimbabwe. When engineers were working on the plans for the dam, they looked at possible future scenarios and concluded that flooding would not exceed a certain amount and that this would happen within a period of 30 years, but were wrong.
The engineers also projected that the dam would be getting 1,8 billion cubic litres of water in four years and constructed a coffer dam responsible for catching water before it flows into the bigger Tokwe Murkosi Dam.
“When we look at the whole of Masvingo, we will be getting 400-500ml of rain per year but this season we got more than 800ml in one week. These rains then filled the small dam that was supposed to be holding 600ml and the water flowed onto the big wall and this covered the 2 600 hectares with water,” explained Kasukuwere.
“Many people were inconvenienced, graves were destroyed, school children were disturbed in their education and the farmers have also been disturbed.” Last month, the Financial Gazette reported that a decision to change the initial design for the Tokwe Murkosi Dam to cut costs could be behind the present structural challenges now threatening the multi-million dollar reservoir.