The damage at Kapichira as captured in January
* President Lazarus Chakwera directed that the lost 130 megawatts be restored at Kapichira by December
* Restoration is in two phases; temporarily construction of the cofferdam around mouth of the damaged fuse plug
* And as soon as power generation is restored, to reconstruct the whole dam structure with an improved design
* The SVTP massive irrigation project is touted as the biggest of such in the Southern African region
By Duncan Mlanjira
Electricity Generation Company (EGENCO) and Shire Valley Transformation Programme (SVTP) joined hands to restore power at Kapichira Hydro Station in Chikwawa, whose infrastructure was affected by Cyclone Ana in January.
This collaboration is because both entities share common interest on EGENCO’s Kapichira Hydro Power Station’s dam, at which the SVTP was building its intake for the massive irrigation project — that is touted as the biggest of such in the Southern African region.
During the January tropical storm, Kapichira Dam’s fuse plug (an emergency spillway) was damaged and the Shire River changed to its original course away from the hydropower’s intake.
To restore the 130 megawatts lost at Kapichira, which is expected to be completed by December as directed by President Lazarus Chakwera, SVTP is building a cofferdam which will serve two purposes, which — on one hand — the coffer dam will allow EGENCO to partially fill the reservoir and resume generation of power.
On the other, it will allow SVTP to reconstruct the Intake which was washed away by the tropical storm. EGENCO on the other hand is doing repairs on the gates at the emergency spill way and the dam embankment.
In an interview, EGENCO’s project manager, Harry Msosa emphasized that restoration is in two phases; temporarily construction of the cofferdam around mouth of the damaged fuse plug and as soon as power generation is restored, to reconstruct the whole dam structure with an improved design.
This is under ‘Build Back Better’ for a resilient dam that should withstand the frequent floods the country is experiencing as a result of climate change and catchment area degradation.
The funders for both EGENCO and SVTP is the World Bank and to cut on time — since for SVTP to continue with construction of its state-of-the-art intake needs to have the Shire redirected to EGENCO intake — the two entities will use existing consultants and contractors who are already working on SVTP.
This, as confirmed by SVTP project coordinator, Dr. Stanley Khaila, will ensure that the process to start reconstruction is quickened and the design of the cofferdam is expected to be completed by end of August and construction of the cofferdam will start soon after.
Once designs are complete, the cofferdam construction works are expected to be completed by end of November— thus by end of December, power generation is expected to resume at Kapichira.
For Phase 2 — reconstruction works of dam structure under Malawi Emergency Power Restoration Project (MEPRP) — will involve redesigning for improved structure and spillway gates system to make it more resilient and will resume immediately after resumption of power generation.
This Phase 2 is expected to take 36 months and no contractor has been engaged yet but is expected to be through the World Bank.
In a statement in June, EGENCO told the nation that taking cognizance that the impact that power outage of Kapichira has had on Malawians and the economy in general, the company “is doing everything possible to mitigate the impact through timely repose to requirement of the available machines in the system including running available diesel generation units”.
“The company is also working with stakeholders such as ESCOM, as system market operator, to ensure that we operate a stable generation system although at times, with the biggest machine in the system out, it has not been possible.”
When Minister of Agriculture, Lobin Lowe visited the Cyclone Ana-damaged site of the Shire Valley Transformation Programme in February, he announced that the Ministry had re-engaged the consultants who designed the irrigation canal’s intake to carry out an assessment of the damage caused in order to redesign it to withstand any other future forces of nature.
Present was World Bank representative Joop Stoutjesdijk, who indicated that the funders were willing to bankroll the reconstruction and he made mention that to make this project more resilient, there was need for SVTP to work with EGENCO in the restoration of Kapichira Dam.
SVTP engineer Martin Chizalema also added credence that since Kapichira Dam is the source of water for the SVTP intake, they would not work in isolation but to involve EGENCO as partners.
On July 15, 2022, high ranking officers from Ministry of Finance — sent by the Minister of Finance, Sosten Gwengwe himself — visited the SVTP construction site where Chizalema told them that they were meeting costs of reconstruction of Kapichira cofferdam and that a contractor has already been identified, who is working with their consultant as he redesigns the intake.