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Biggest Sub-Saharan Hydro Plant Threatened By Drought

Electricity supply to South Africa and other countries depending on Mozambique’s Cahora Bassa dam is under threat following the sharply falling water levels at the dam, which is also the biggest hydro-power plan in Sub-Saharan Africa and has the capacity to produce 2,075MW.

Southern Africa’s drought has been so far the worst in the past 35 years and has resulted to low inflow of waters from the rivers, which include Zambezi, Luangwa and Kafue.

According to data from the Mozambican reservoir operator, Hidroelectica de Cahora Bassa, levels in the reservoir have dropped by more than 8.8m since the start of the year.

Phil Bezuidenhout, a lodge owner at the Mozambican dam and who has been operating there for 24 years, stated that the levels are at the lowest. “These levels are ridiculously low,” he said.

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Kariba, which provides about half of Cahora Bassa’s water, and is also the worlds’ largest man-made freshwater reservoir, is at 16% of capacity and falling. The dam has three times the capacity of Cahora Bassa at 180 km³.  The water levels are however much dependent on how high the 2016-17 seasonal flood will be.

Despite Kariba’s low and falling levels, Cahora Bassa operators will need to keep the present power production and monitor carefully what is happening in the basin.

So far, the Cahora Bassa dam’s operator has reduced generation by a further 18% because of a technical fault that resulted to the rupture of some insulating material.

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Written by PH

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