On May 16, 1960, the Kariba Dam was officially opened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, with the switching on of the first electricity generators, bringing to life one of Africa’s most ambitious projects.
The Kariba Dam was constructed between 1956 and 1960, creating, at that time, the largest manmade lake in the world – Lake Kariba. At the time of its construction, the Kariba Dam was known as “one of the engineering wonders of the world,” a double-curvature, concrete-arch, dam wall standing at a height of 128 meters above the river bed and spanning 617 meters across the Kariba gorge blocking the path of Africa’s second largest river – the mighty Zambezi. The building of the dam wall created an “inland sea,” stretching 280 kilometers in length, covering an area of over 5,500 square kilometers and holding back more than 180 billion tons of water. The dam wall is host to two of Southern Africa’s most important electricity-generating stations, Kariba North Bank Power Station on the Zambian side and Kariba South Bank Power Station on the Zimbabwe side, between them generating a total of 1,320 mega watts of electricity.
The Kariba Dam has undoubtedly contributed to the economic and social development of Zambia, Zimbabwe, and the Southern African Region. Lake Kariba today is not only the home of one of Southern Africa’s most important sources of energy, the formation of the lake also gave birth to the town of Siavonga and created a vibrant commercial fishing industry and a continuously developing tourism industry offering some of Africa’s most breathtaking scenery with a diversity of fauna and flora, hotel accommodation, sports fishing, water sports, house boating, and a variety of other tourist activities.
The 50th anniversary of the opening of the Kariba Dam should not go unmarked.
In Zambia, the town of Siavonga is the focal point of activities emanating from the creation of this magnificent structure – electricity generation, the hotel and tourism industry, the kapenta fishing industry, natural stone mining and cutting, and a variety of other support and service industries and commercial businesses.
It has been decided to declare the month of May 2010 the “Anniversary Month” and a number of activities are being planned in Siavonga. All members of the community are invited to contribute to the anniversary celebrations and help to make this event a resounding success.
The hotel industry has proposed an itinerary for the “Anniversary Month” by planning a number of events for each weekend of May.
May 1-2: Labor Day holiday weekend
Various events at each hotel
May 8-9: Cultural weekend
It is intended to invite a theatre group from Lusaka to perform a show about Nyami Nyami the Zambezi River God. This performance has been done in Lusaka before and has had favourable reviews. It is hoped that the show can be performed at a number of venues around the town during the course of the week-end. In addition it is intended to organise both local and national cultural dance groups to compliment the performance and also organise local craft stalls to display and sell traditional curios.
May 15-16: Official Anniversary Celebrations weekend
This weekend is the actual 50th Anniversary and it is suggested that the District Administration invites prominent dignitaries including the British High Commissioner to participate in a formal celebration of the opening of the Dam Wall. This event would take place on the Dam Wall itself and be accompanied by marching bands and cultural dances – the media would also be invited to cover the event. We intend to ask ZRA (Zambezi River Authority) if they could open the flood gates for a scheduled short time so members of the public could view this spectacular sight, it has also been proposed that a new information board be made. The occasion would be concluded with a Dinner/Dance at both Kariba Inns and Lake Safari Lodge and a night-time fireworks display over the Lake.
May 22-23: Siavonga Canoe Challenge
On this weekend the Annual Siavonga Canoe Race will take place. This will be the 4th year that this event has been held and it has grown in popularity and attendance each year. It is intended to make this year’s Canoe Challenge very special with an emphasis on the 50th Anniversary Celebrations.