Mozambique floods would have been worse without Cahora Bassa dam

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The impact of this year’s floods in the Zambezi Valley, Mozambique, would have been worse, if the Cahora Bassa dam did not exist, according to Henriques Silva, an environmental and engineering specialist with the dam operating company, Hidroelectrica de Cahora Bassa (HCB). One current of thought in Mozambique has argued the discharges from the Cahora Bassa floodgates made the flooding on the middle and lower Zambezi worse. In extreme form, as expressed by the former rebel movement, Renamo, this becomes a conspiracy theory, whereby the government ordered HCB to release enormous amounts of water in order to force people from their homes so they can be concentrated in what Renamo calls “communal villages” where they can be more easily controlled. Silva, who spoke with the Beira daily paper, “Diario de Mocambique”, argued this was the opposite of the truth. “Without the dam, the floods would have been worse, since all the water would have come down. The Zambeze Hotel (in Tete city) would have been reached by the floods.”

The hotel, Silva noted, is a well-known landmark in Tete, standing well above the level of the river and about 200 metres from its banks. In none of the three major floods this decade (2001, 2007 and this year) has the water reached the hotel, although the river has invaded lower lying Tete suburbs and drowned crops planted in the Nhartanda Valley. Silva pointed out that during this rainy season Cahora Bassa has often been releasing through its floodgates, only half the amount of water flowing into the dam lake from Zambia and Zimbabwe.

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