Contractors of the Kamuzu Barrage in Liwonde have embarked on the second and final phase of the project which includes replacing the eight remaining gates and constructing a modern weed boom that would protect the ecosystem on the Shire River.
The mechanical contractor has already produced precast beams for the bridge with the construction of the pillars to support the new bridge remaining before the completion due date of May, 2018.
Initially, deadline for the completion of the $50 million (about K40 billion) project was earmarked for November, 2017 but delays in mobilizing equipment to the site has meant that the completion would be extended.
In an interview after a media tour of the site of the second phase of the project on Friday, the Malawi government site representative Toney Nyasulu said excavation of the old foundation was underway before construction of the new piers for the bridge could begin.
The mechanical engineers have already begun removing the old gates ready to install eight new gates which would be automated and are unlike the old ones.
To ensure the construction is within the timeframe, Nyasulu said multiple works are being done concurrently.
“One of the reasons for the delays in the first phase was because mobilization of equipment took some time but this time, all the equipment is available and we will catch up. We will be able to do things fast and be able to reduce the delays that we have incurred,” he said.
In the first phase, six gates were removed and replaced with new ones that are 40cm higher and would be able to capture more water from upstream.
With the automation of the gates, opening the gates and the amount of water to go through would be accurate and human error would be eliminated.
Nyasulu said this would benefit operations downstream such as electricity generation as well as controlling water to avoid flooding in the lower Shire.
The project also includes a weed control system that would replace the current harvester which cuts weed and offloads to the shore.
“The new weed boon design which will be much longer than the current one. It will be at an angle and the weeds would be sliding to the eastern side where we are going to put up a weed collector. In this way, there will be no interfering with the biological organisms in the water as it is happening now,” Nyasulu said.
Shire River Basin Management Programme communications specialist Horace Nyaka said the contractors had assured the government of Malawi that there would be no further delays to the project.
“It is the responsibility of people living upstream to take care of the Shire River resources for the benefit of those living in the lower Shire. Downstream, there are hydroelectricity programmes, sugar plantations and irrigation which depends on water from the river,” he said.
The barrage is a multipurpose structure that regulates of water upstream to downstream of the Shire River.
Portuguese firm Conduril Engenharia SA is carrying out the civil works while Norplan of Norway is the supervising engineering consultant of the project.