Problems at Kariba Dam…wrath of Nyaminyami or poor management?

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By Michelina Andreucci

MAINTENANCE is part of African philosophy.
Traditional African knowledge is replete with methods and means of preservation, maintenance and restoration of everything from houses to crops planted and animals to keeping things pristine. With new clay pots moulded every season, maintenance was a cyclical part of nature and human cycle regulated and mandated that even the Shona language contains very poignant diction and words that allude to concepts of preservation, maintenance, recycling and re-invigoration of new life and life forms.
The maintenance of Kariba Dam falls under the jurisdiction of the Zambezi River Authority (ZRA) which monitors the dam structure, the water levels and controls water flows. The authority of the ZRA alternates every five years between Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC) in Harare, Zimbabwe, and (ZESCO) in Lusaka, Zambia, which in 2011 was in the chair.
The ZRA monitors the levels of water in the reservoir and dictates the water volume that can be used by each power station; tariffs are based on water flow, and are used by ZRA to maintain the dam and all associated infrastructure.
However, according to a report dated Tuesday August 30 2011, the flow metres were out of order, necessitating the payment of tariffs to be based on power produced.
The same report continues: “… when turbines 1 and 2 were rehabilitated, the runners were not replaced, so that the turbines could not generate their maximum output. This was rectified for turbines 3 and 4… The 4th (and final turbine) in the middle of its rehabilitation, had been taken to pieces with components draped all over any available space… ”
“…a large flow of water coming from Turbine 3, which has a large leak and consequently de-watering pumps are used all the time when Turbine 3 is running.
Unfortunately the leak has been there for a long time and was not resolved during the rehabilitation…. There was no oil separator in the drainage sumps… The cooling water for the chiller plant is not recycled, but is discharged below the tailrace….”
How much is the water loss from the various problems and is it recorded?
The turbine rehabilitation on the North Power Station in Zambia started in 2001, which when completed was expected to increase electricity output to 720 MW.
The 18 months needed to manufacture the runners for the generators delayed the rehabilitation project.
ZESCO was also in the process of a US$400 million extension project, to add turbines 5 and 6. 
What has happened (today) that one report can point out so many deficiencies?
One trusts the ZPC is a little more proficient with its work and procedures; these authorities are, after all, responsible for the livelihood and welfare of over 14 million people in Zimbabwe, a sacred trust that should not be taken frivolously.
Another disquieting issue was that some years ago ZESCO had replaced its old transformers which contained the hazardously carcinogenic (cancerous) — now banned — Polychlorinated biphenyl oil (PCB).
The contractor appointed to undertake the work spilled some PCB oils on the ground. All the contaminated soil was collected, together with all the contaminated protective clothing and put in drums. The drums are now currently being stored in an open yard, guarded patiently by a security guard, waiting to be exported to some place that can deal with PCBs.
What will happen if and when these drums rust and the oils spill again?
It is unfortunate that in this mechanical urban environment, natural Shona philosophies pertaining to the concepts of maintenance are not practised in the mechanised environment.
Is this slothfulness due to people not adopting the traditional philosophies of maintenance to the modern mechanical environment? If so, why?
Furthermore, apart from the physical dangers, the time necessitated away from the affairs of home and family, the physical limitations and the demands of the modern world, and despite Western assertions and utterances about equality and equal opportunity, certain fields may not be conducive or permit the employment of women for the day-to-day surveillance required at sensitive areas such as water and electricity authorities.
ZESA should stop whistling in the dark…!
In 2009 a big fire occurred at the North Bank station. Some of the staff escaped by evacuating via one of the tailrace tunnels from one of the turbines that was being rehabilitated – was this another of Nyaminyami’s admonitions or human negligence and lack of maintenance?
Is Nyaminyami still angry?
I leave the reader deep waters for thought and await the light!
Dr Michelina Rudo Andreucci is a Zimbabwean-Italian Researcher, Industrial Design Consultant and Specialist Interior Decorator. She is a published author in her field. For comments, E-mail:linamanucci@gmail.com

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