1960 – Opening of Kariba Dam

Opening of Kariba Dam

17 May 1960

The Kariba Dam project was planned by the government of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. Northern Rhodesia had decided earlier in 1953 to build a dam within its territory, on the Kafue River, a major tributary of the Zambezi. It would have been closer to Zambia’s Copperbelt, which was in need of more power. This would have been a cheaper and less grandiose project, with a smaller environmental impact. Southern Rhodesia, the richest of the three, objected to a Kafue dam and insisted that the dam be sited instead at Kariba.

The Kariba Dam is a double curvature concrete arch dam in the Kariba Gorge of the Zambezi river basin between Zambia and Zimbabwe. The dam stands 128 metres (420 ft) tall and 579 metres (1,900 ft) long.The dam forms Lake Kariba, which extends for 280 kilometres (170 mi) and holds 185 cubic kilometres (150,000,000 acre⋅ft) of water.

The double curvature concrete arch dam was designed by Coyne et Bellier and constructed between 1955 and 1959 by Impresit of Italy at a cost of $135,000,000 for the first stage with only the Kariba South power cavern. Final construction and the addition of the Kariba North Power cavern by Mitchell Construction was not completed until 1977 due to largely political problems for a total cost of $480,000,000. During construction, 86 men lost their lives.

It was officially opened by the Queen Mother on 17 May 1960 as part of her Royal Visit.

Initially the dam was managed and maintained by the Central African Power Corporation.The Kariba Dam is now owned and operated by the Zambezi River Authority, which is jointly and equally owned by Zimbabwe and Zambia.

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