George Maponga Masvingo Bureau
Government will relocate a further 3 000 people from areas close to Tokwe-Mukosi Dam to create a buffer zone around the lake aimed at making way for a wildlife sanctuary. The move is also expected to curb threats of siltation from activities in surrounding communities. At least 15 000 people were relocated from areas in the Tokwe-Mukosi basin in early 2014 following floods that submerged their homes in the wake of incessant rains that pounded Masvingo.
The flood victims were relocated to Chingwizi in the Nuanetsi Ranch of Mwenezi District.
There are, however, growing fears that the nearly $300 million dam recently commissioned by President Mugabe might be affected by siltation unless a buffer zone is created in its immediate environments.
The buffer zone will form part of the envisaged Tokwe-Mukosi National Park.
Masvingo provincial administrator Mr Fungai Mbetsa on Tuesday said evaluation of properties owned by families to be moved had been completed.
“We want to preserve the dam at all costs and reducing the risk of siltation by creating a buffer zone is a top priority,” he said. “We have already done evaluations to determine how much each of the families that will be moved from the buffer zone will be paid.”
Mr Mbetsa said there were plans to stock the planned game park with wildlife to be trans-located from other habitats around Zimbabwe.
He downplayed the immediate threat of siltation in Tokwe-Mukosi Dam.
“There is no immediate danger of siltation taking its toll on Tokwe-Mukosi because the lake cannot be silted inside one year,” he said.
Mr Mbetsa said the exact timeline for relocating the people was not in place.
“We need to identify land to resettle these people while also making arrangements of the payments of compensation which could amount to $5 million,” he said.
Mr Mbetsa said Government was waiting for the Tokwe-Mukosi master plan to determine where people moved from the buffer zone would be resettled.
The master plan will designate the land-use pattern in areas around the dam.
“We have always made it clear that families moved from the basin of the dam and those who will pave way for the buffer zone should be among the first to benefit from the dam’s water through irrigation,” he said.
“The search for the resettlement land is underway and we will get a clear picture once the consultant working on the master plan has finished his job.
“We, however, cannot exactly say when the consultant will finish work on that plan.”
Mr Mbetsa said Government, through the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, was seized with the mobilisation of funds to pay outstanding compensation owed to families affected by the dam’s construction.
The Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority recently announced that it was carrying out feasibility studies that will determine boundaries of the planned national park.
President Mugabe, while commissioning Tokwe-Mukosi Dam in May this year, underscored the need to preserve Zimbabwe’s largest inland water body by adopting measures that makes sure its not affected by siltation.
He said siltation would destroy the socio-economic benefits from projects envisaged at the lake.
President Mugabe exhorted both political and traditional leaders in Masvingo to educate their people to desist from engaging in practices that promoted environmental degradation upstream of the dam.
Major dams in the province such as Lake Mutirikwi and Mushandike Dam have been severely affected by siltation caused by poor environmental management practices along the dams’ catchment.
Tokwe-Mukosi has a capacity of 1,8 billion cubic metres of water and is touted as a catalyst of Masvingo’s envisaged transformation because of its potential to boost the province’s socio-economic development.
Government in 2014 carried out arguably the largest ever mass relocation of people in post-independent Zimbabwe after relocation over 3 000 families, their property and livestock from the flooded Tokwe-Mukosi basin in Chivi and Masvingo districts to Nuanetsi in Mwenezi about 160 kilometres away.