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MBABANE – A multimillion Emalangeni dam project that is expected to create countless business and job opportunities is about to be ushered in.

That is the Mkhondvo-Ngwavuma Water Augmentation Project (MNWAP). It is an infrastructure and irrigation project aimed at poverty alleviation in the Shiselweni Region. One of the key steps in bringing the project to reality has been done by the implementing agency, Eswatini Water and Agricultural Development Enterprise (ESWADE).  That is the preparation of an environmental and social impact assessment report and the formulation of a comprehensive mitigation plan. The project will be implemented in two phases.


The first phase comprises the construction of the Mpakeni Dam on the Ngwavuma River and associated downstream conveyance to irrigate approximately 5 000 hectares at Sigwe, Maloma, Mconcwane/Mcathuvane and St Phillips. The next phase will comprise the construction of the most feasible option for the transfer of water from the Mkhondvo River to augment the limited water in the Ngwavuma River at the Mpakeni Dam. The feasible option for the water transfer will include either the Mahamba Gorge and downstream conveyance or the Ethemba Dam conveyance or a combination of both. Phase two will see an expansion of irrigation to Greater Lavumisa, Somntongo and Matsanjeni areas to irrigate approximately 25 000 hectares.  This will take the possible combined irrigation to 30 000 hectares, benefitting 100 000 people. The objective of the Mpakeni Dam in the overall MNWAP objective is to harvest, store and supply irrigation water which will be conveyed from the Dam via a distribution pipeline downstream of the proposed dam site.


In a nutshell, Mpakeni Dam aims to satisfy water requirements for the proposed development of an area under irrigation measuring approximately 5 000 hectares for those under the first component.  The irrigation areas will be developed at St Phillips, Mconcwane and Maloma and expanded in the overall MNWAP project area. The Mpakeni Dam will create a storage of approximately 122 cubic millimetres (mm3). It will be notably below some of the major dams that include Maguga. The Maguga Dam has a storage capacity of 332 million cubic metres. In addition, commercial agriculture will be developed within the irrigation areas, thereby providing a vehicle of poverty alleviation and socio-economic upliftment. As far as relocation purposes are concerned, homesteads will be affected along the canal conveyance route leading to a compensation cost of over 960 000 Euros (around E16 million).


The project will result in physical displacement and relocation of approximately 146 households below the reservoir maximum operating level. The report on the project does highlight the creation of both formal and informal job opportunities but the exact number which is expected to be over 100 was not disclosed. Residents will be able to sell their goods and services to generate extra income. Meanwhile, in the past year it was reported that the African Development Bank (AfDB) was financing the Mkhondvo-Ngwavuma Water Resources Enhancement Programme in Eswatini to the tune of US$ 1.67 million (about E23.6 million in yesterday’s exchange rate). This programme will enable the construction of several dams in the country. The board of directors of the pan-African bank is financing feasibility studies for the implementation of the MNWAP to the tune of the said amount. Its objective is to contribute to food security, poverty reduction and climate change resilience by supporting the development of water and irrigation infrastructure in the country.


Within this framework, the AfDB support will enable feasibility studies to be carried out for several water reservoirs, notably that of Mahamba Gorge. Geographically, Mahamba Gorge is a deep cleft in the rocky ridge, dotted with aloe, where the Mkhondvo River crosses the mountainous border with neigbouring South Africa. The AfDB financing will also help launch feasibility studies for the construction of the Ethemba Dam. According to the report, the Mahamba Gorge and Ethemba dams will be located at the Mkhondvo River. The water contained in the basin of the two future dams will be transferred to the Ngwavuma River. The US$ 1.67 million provided by the AfDB also also helped finance feasibility studies for the construction of the Mpakeni Dam in the Ngwavuma River. According to the AfDB, its financial support will also be used to prepare detailed designs and tender documents for the new dams to be built at Mahamba Gorge, Ethemba and Mpakeni as well as to implement the water supply system in downstream irrigation areas.

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