MOST major dams in Masvingo province are on the verge of drying up as a result of the continued dry spell, with Lake Mutirikwi and Tugwi-Mukosi Dam at below 40% of their carrying capacities.

By Garikai Mafirakureva

According to the dam level statistics provided by the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa), over half of the major dams in the province are now below 50% with Bangala and Tokwane dams both in Chivi district already drying up.

Lake Mutirikwi is currently at 39% and the recently-commissioned Tugwi-Mukosi Dam which was constructed at an estimated cost of US$200 million with a capacity of 1, 9 million cubic metres currently at 38%, while Muzhwi is at 35%.

Water levels at Bangala Dam, which is the only source of water in Nyajena, has dropped to 9% and Tokwane is at 14%.

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However, Manjirenji Dam has significant level of 58%, Siya with 55%, Manyuchi with 50% and Nyajena with 86%.

While the government, through the Social Welfare Department and non-governmental organisations, have started distributing food handouts to people mostly in rural areas – the ravaging drought is also threatening the country’s national herd and wild animals.

Labour and Social Welfare minister Paul Mavima recently disclosed that Masvingo province had already received its share of the 15 tonnes of Chinese rice donated by President Emmerson Mnangagwa to rural constituencies as part of government’s efforts to avert food shortages.

“All rural provinces, including greater Harare and Bulawayo Metropolitan, are going to receive food handouts as part of the government’s strategy to mitigate food deficit,” Mavima said.

“Although the programme is currently targeting orphans and vulnerable children, the destitute, elderly, the chronically ill, and people living with disabilities, the government is exploring all avenues to make sure everyone benefits from food aid. Presently an estimated 760 692 households throughout the country are expected to benefit from the programme, each receiving a 50kg bag per month.”

Director of the Gonarezhou Conservation Partnership, Hugo van der Westhuizen, told Southern Eye that if the drought spell continued it would seriously affect wildlife sanctuaries.

Gonarezhou Conservation is a partnership between the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority and the Frankfurt Zoological Society.

“If the drought spell continues, we will be in a dilemma because pastures are fast dwindling and water bodies slowly drying up. Although every animal will be affected; the most affected will be larger animals like elephants,” he said. A few months ago, at least 100 elephants died in the Hwange National Park and Mana Pools due to starvation caused by drought.