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Machado dam could fail at any time


The structural damage to the Centenary dam in Machadodorp has become so serious that the dam could fail at any time. This is the warning being sounded by Mr. Delon Duvenage, head of the Machadodorp branch of the civil rights organisation, AfriForum. In a recent interview with THG, Duvenage reported that the condition of the dam wall had deteriorated to such a point that there is now a very real risk of collapse.


“In my capacity as head of the Machado branch of AfriForum, I have repeatedly warned Emakhazeni Local Municipality (ELM) officials that there is a serious problem with the dam – but they don’t seem to be listening,” Duvenage said. “Instead, ELM think, by opening the sluice on the dam and partially draining off some of the water to relieve the pressure on the dam wall, that they are solving the problem. They are not. The sluice can only release a relatively small amount of water during any given 24 hour period,” he said. Duvenage went on to warn that, as the dam was relatively small in size, it could very easily fill up after only a day or two of heavy rains. “Even with the sluice wide open, the dam would quickly overflow. The already weakened wall could then fail at any time.”


As the dam was originally constructed to form an emergency reservoir in times of drought, the loss of this fall-back facility could easily plunge Machadodorp into a water crisis. Not to mention that the available water resources of the town are already under considerable pressure due to the construction of the new flats above the town, as well as the imminent opening of the new Emakhazeni Boarding School and their associated increases in demand for water. Some of the other rather pointed questions currently being asked of the powers-that-be at ELM are:

  • Does ELM have a disaster management plan in place – should the dam fail?
  • Are ELM’s insurers aware of the increased risk and, should the dam fail, does ELM carry sufficient insurance to cover the large number of claims that will stem from damage to property and/or loss of life from thousands of people living downstream from the dam?
  • Does ELM have a contingency plan in place to ensure adequate water supplies for Machado residents should the dam fail and the current drought conditions continue?

According to Duvenage, answers to these and other questions remain unanswered by ELM officials. “On behalf of the residents of Machadodorp, we will continue to push for a full survey of the dam to be carried out by a competent engineer, with a view to repairs being made before it is too late,” he said. “If our warnings continue to fall on deaf ears, this vital public asset could be lost,” he warned.