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Mozambique plans to build dams to avoid repeats of the flooding of the Zambezi River that has devastated the country in recent weeks.

The first dam to be constructed will be the Mpanda Nkhuwa dam, located 70 kilometres downstream from the Cahora Bassa dam in the Tete Province, according to energy minister Salvador Namburete.

The initiative will help control the flow of floodwaters that are discharged from the country's Cahora Bassa hydroelectric dam during the rainy season.

The floodgates of the Cahora Bassa dam have to be opened when the weight of water building up behind reaches the dam's maximum capacity. A second dam would store water downstream and help to regulate the flow of water.

It would also improve irrigation of farmland in the region, and produce an estimated 1,300 megawatts of electricity, according to the Mozambique news agency.

The estimated cost for the dam — which would take six years to build — will be US$2.3 billion. A loan from China's Exim Bank agreed in November 2006 will cover the cost.

The dam's potential as a source of electricity generation is expected to benefit the Southern African Development Community region, which is experiencing power shortages.

More than 87,000 people have been affected by several weeks of flooding in the Zambezi's river valley.

Zambia's chief government spokesperson Vernon Mwaanga says initial reports indicate that the floods have caused extensive damage to roads, houses and bridges.

Despite the destruction, non-governmental organisations have criticised the government for deciding to build more dams, claiming they would displace thousands of people and impact food production.

Francis Ngambi of the Economic Justice Network told SciDev.Net that the Zambezi River is overwhelmed because it already has many large dams.

It is estimated that construction of the Mpanda Nkhuwa dam would submerge more than 100 square kilometres of arable land and displace over 1000 people.

Zambia Meteorological Department chief forecast officer, Jacob Nkomoki, also disputed the idea of dam construction to reduce floods.

He told SciDev.Net that floods can only be reduced by equipping African meteorology departments with modern forecasting equipment and setting up early warning systems.

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