Lake Kariba AFR-04

Riparian Nation(s) Zambia, Zimbabwe
Surface Area 5400 km2 Mean Depth 31 m Volume 160 km3
Shoreline 2164 km Catchment Area 663000 km2 Residence Time 3 yr
Frozen Period None Mixing Type Monomictic Morphogenesis/Dam Kariba Dam (16.5219S, 28.7638E, 1961)
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In 1961, the damming of the Zambezi River was completed and one of the largest man-made lakes in the world was formed. The massive project was undertaken to provide hydroelectric power for the growing industries of Zimbabwe and Zambia. Two power stations, one on the Zambian bank and the other on the Zimbabwean side are in full operation. Covering an area of nearly 6,000 km2, the lake has become a year-round source of water for an abundance of animal and bird life, and a sunny playground for both local and foreign tourists. From the urban area of Kariba Township, near the dam wall, the lake extends westwards for 290 km with a width of 32 km.

The story of the creation of the lake and the building of Kariba Dam is an exciting account of modern engineering. But it is also the tale of the tragic but necessary removal of the Ba Tonga people, who held that the river god Nyaminyami would destroy the dam and allow the Zambezi to run free again. As well, it is the story of one of the most impressive wildlife rescue operations ever carried out in Africa. Over 5,000 animals were rescued, including 35 different mammal species and 44 black rhino. Frightened creatures ranging from elephant to snakes were captured for release into areas that now form Matusadona National Park and Chete Safari Area (1, 8).

Photo of Lake Kariba
Photo: C. H. D. Magadza