MAPUTO, Feb 15 – The Massingir dam, in the southern Mozambican province of Gaza, has decided to increase its discharges in an attempt to save the rice harvest in the Limpopo Valley.

The dam is located on the Elephants River, which is the main tributary of the Limpopo River, Africa’s second largest river. In principle, the dam reservoir should guarantee water for the large irrigation schemes on the Limpopo in Chokwe and Xai-Xai districts but ever since its construction in the colonial era, the dam has been plagued with structural problems.

Nonetheless, when Prime Minister Carlos Agostinho do Rosario visited Massingir on Friday, the director of the dam rehabilitation project, Luis Paulo, told him that emergency discharges, of 27 cubic metres a second, begun on Feb 2, sought to meet the water requirements of crops in the Limpopo Valley and thus save this year’s harvest.

Radio Mozambique quoted him as saying that the discharges would continue to be made while work continued on repairing the dam’s bottom outlet which was severely damaged in May 2008 because of bungled work by contractors when pipes in the bottom outlet ruptured. Now a further attempt is being made to repair the outlet.

There are two pipes in the bottom outlet, one of which is now being used to discharge water into the river. According to the managing director of the Southern Regional Water Board (ARA-Sul), Helio Banze, this will increase the time required to repair the bottom outlet.

The dam management says there is no other way to make the water stored in the reservoir available. Because of the drought, the water simply does not reach the surface spillways. Staff are watching the situation closely, to ensure that the current discharges do not further compromise the bottom outlet.

Source: AIM