- A long awaited hydrological and monitoring network for Zambia's Itezhi Tezhi Dam is finally in place, following a three-year initiative to improve water flows in the Kafue Flats. The dam for years has disrupted natural flooding and destroyed biodiversity in ancient wetlands, but the network now is to restore this valuable habitat.
- We are very excited about activating the new system, said Nyambe Nalumino, the Partners for Wetlands Kafue Flats Project Director. "It will mean a whole new life for the flats." The new hydrological and monitoring network may restore the wetlands of the Kafue Flats, with its valuable ecosystems, wildlife and fisheries.
Located in central Zambia, the Kafue Flats wetland is a flat swampy area stretching 6,500 km2 along the Kafue River, from the town of Itezhi Tezhi in the west to the town of Kafue in the east. Prior to the construction of the dam in 1972, the flats were once teeming with wildlife, birdlife, and a wide range of plant diversity, with natural flooding once providing many benefits to the people living in the area.
The dam's operating rules have in the past affected wetland productivity with fisheries experiencing reduced spawning areas. Traditional grazing areas for livestock have been flooded at times when they should be dry, and crops have received less nutrients once deposited by annual floods.
A partnership between the environmentalist group WWF, Zambia's Ministry of Energy and Water Development (MEWD) and Zambia Electricity Supply Company (ZESCO) has for years been working towards changing the dam's operating rules to replicate as much as possible the natural flooding regime of the Kafue River without compromising the water needed for electricity generation.
By installing equipment to monitor meteorological and hydrological data - such as rain gauges and water-level gauge plates - water releases from the Itezhi Tezhi Dam can be better managed and flooding can be restored to a more natural pattern and help re-establish the productivity of the flats, according to WWF.
- As far as I can see, ZESCO is taking a lot of ownership for the process and the Ministry of Energy and Water Development has keen interest to see the process completed, said Nyambe Nalumino. "The future of the Kafue Flats looks bright," he added.
The Kafue Flats are considered among Zambia's most valuable wetlands. ZESCO and MEWD last year signed an agreement with WWF worth euro 826,441 to "jointly fund and implement an Integrated Water Resource Management Programme" for the Flats. The first phase of this project, which was completed in 2002, developed a management strategy.
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