HARARE, Zimbabwe — With the rains not having fallen as they normally do, water levels have dropped in a dam that supplies electricity to Zambia and Zimbabwe, causing power blackouts, business closures and consternation. Some traditional chiefs are blaming an angry river god.
Zimbabwean media, citing the chiefs, said the low water levels at Kariba Dam, built in 1960 on the border between the two countries, could be due to failure to conduct traditional rites. The flow of the Zambezi River, which feeds the dam, has also dropped, depleting the famed Victoria Falls of its majestic power.
The Kariba power station is a major provider of electricity to the neighboring nations. Traditional leaders on both sides of Kariba Lake, which is formed by Kariba Dam and is the world’s largest man-made lake by volume, have conducted rain-making ceremonies to try to stem further decline of water levels. They plan to appeal for rain in another ceremony on Saturday.
Former Zambian Vice President Guy Scott, who was interim president for three months until January, blamed the problem on “a weak regulator sitting between two puppies drinking milk from the same saucer,” referring to Zimbabwe and Zambia both trying to exploit the water from the dam as much as possible, local media reported.
Now, industry and households in parts of Zimbabwe are enduring power cuts for up to 48 hours at a time, forcing massive production cuts for already struggling companies. Households are learning to do with firewood-cooked meals.
Problems at other Zimbabwean power plants besides Kariba have exacerbated the shortages. Droughts have forced Kariba Dam to reduce power generation by more than 36 percent, the Zimbabwe Power Co. said.
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