The Kariba Dam Rehabilitation Project: Fact Sheet

February 24, 2015

Marcus Wishart, World Bank Group

The Context: The Kariba Dam is the largest man-made reservoir in the world. At a height of 128m and with a crest length of 617m, the dam has the capacity of holding 181 billion cubic meters of water. Designed as a double curvature concrete arch dam, the Kariba Dam was constructed across the Zambezi River between 1956 and 1959. Commissioned in 1960, the Dam has been central to regional energy security and economic development ever since.  

The Kariba Reservoir supplies water to two underground hydropower stations with a total capacity of 1830MW generating more than 10,035 GWh of electricity annually. The North Bank Power Station is operated by ZESCO in Zambia and has an installed capacity of 1,080 MW. The South Bank Power Station is operated by ZPC in Zimbabwe and currently has an installed capacity of 750 MW, with projects underway to increase this to 1,050 MW.

The Project: After more than 50 years of providing power for the Southern African Region, the Kariba Dam now requires a series of rehabilitation works for its continued safe operation. The program is to be implemented over the next ten years, taking into account the need to continue operating the dam safely with minimal interruptions to power generation.

The works will include 1. reshaping of the plunge pool to limit scouring and erosion that could potentially undermine the dam foundations; and, 2. refurbishment of the spillway and associated infrastructure to improve the dam’s stability and operations.

Environmental and Social Context: The two rehabilitation components include in situ works on existing infrastructure to secure operations in accordance with international dam safety standards. The rehabilitation measures are not expected to have any significant adverse environmental or social impacts, with any potential impacts likely to be temporary in nature.

The bi-national Zambezi River Authority (ZRA) is undertaking the necessary Environmental and Social Impact Assessment, preparing an integrated Environmental and Social Management Plan, along with the associated instruments to ensure the sustainability of project through appropriate preventive, mitigation and monitoring interventions. These will be finalized in 2015 before the commencement of the works, which are themselves expected to be completed by 2019 and 2023 for the plunge pool and spillway components respectively.



Zambezi River Authority

US$19.2 m


Africa Development Bank

US$75 m

Loan & Grant

European Union

US$100 m


Swedish Government

US$20 m


The World Bank Group

US$75 m



The Financing: The total cost of works of works is estimated at US$294 million. The Governments of Zambia and Zimbabwe have mobilized financing from the African Development Bank, the European Union, the Government of Sweden, and the World Bank to support the ZRA in implementation of the project.