The Sunday News
Fairness Moyana in Hwange
THE Government has set in motion plans to have Lake Gwayi-Shangani area gazetted into a national park as part of efforts to promote tourism in the area.
The lake, which will have a holding capacity of 650 million cubic metres of water and expected to be the third largest inland water body will see about 10 000ha of land being swallowed up at full flood. The construction of the lake is viewed as a significant milestone under the Second Republic in improving the livelihood of rural communities through the creation of an irrigation greenbelt for communities in Matabeleland North Province.
Lake Gwayi-Shangani construction is part of the National Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project (NMZWP) which upon completion is expected to provide a permanent water solution for Bulawayo and Matabeleland region.
Minister of Environment, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Nqobizitha Mangaliso Ndlovu said the Government was cognisant of the wildlife that would be attracted to the lake hence the need to promote conservation and tourism.
“It’s not just wildlife of course, there are plans to have it gazetted as a national park, it promotes the conservation of both the species and the environment around it. After it is gazetted there are also tourism potential activities that come into being. So all these issues we are bringing them together to make sure that when the President comes here to commission the lake it is a comprehensive project, it is not about the water but what you plan to use it for,” said Minister Ndlovu.
He said plans were underway to ensure that there were wildlife corridors created by the movement of wildlife.
“What we are almost certain of because this was largely a communal area is that we do not expect that they will be animals that will be affected and in need of evacuation. However, we have started planning along that as this big water body comes into life this will attract a lot of animals coming here hence our planning is centred mainly on the wildlife corridors that have to be planned right now.”
He said proximity to the Hwange National Park would also mean a lot of animals especially during drought times coming to seek water. Recreational activities such as fishing, boating, dam and game viewing, among others are expected to attract tourism into the area.
The project which is at 40 percent with eight metres of the 72-metre-high lake wall has been provisionally set to be completed by December. The roller compacted concrete gravity lake will rise to a height of 72m and extend 305m in length.
With a maximum depth of 59m, the reservoir will be capable of holding 650 million m³, almost twice the total capacity of the six supply dams in the Matabeleland South. A hydroelectric power plant will also be built near the lake, with a capacity of 10 MW and will power the pumps and irrigation schemes.
The project has three phases — the construction of the Lake Gwayi-Shangani, the construction of a pipeline to Bulawayo and another which will draw water from the Zambezi River.
The Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa) is spearheading the project while China International Water and Electric Corporation (CIWE) is doing civil works. It is envisaged that construction of new water bodies will help support the switch from rain-fed agriculture and help food-insecure communities through provision of water for both irrigation and fisheries.