It took members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) special forces school three days and eight tonnes of explosives to blow up the Shisakashanghondzo Dam wall in the Kruger National Park (KNP) this October.
The 120 000 cubic metre dam (for comparison, Engelhard Dam is 3,8 million cubic metres) was built by the Kruger technical services department in 1958 under the Park’s previous water provisioning policy.
It had a concrete dam wall approximately 60 metres long and three metres high and was situated in the Shisakashanghondzo River, a tributary of the Timbavati River that flows into the Olifants River.
The dam is not in public view and is about 30 kilometres north west of Satara Camp on the border of the Houtboschrand and Kingfisherspruit ranger sections. The Shisakashanghondzo Dam was selected for removal as part of Kruger's adaptive management policy. The first borehole in the Kruger National Park (KNP) was sunk in 1933 at Pretoriuskop rest camp. Another 12 were sunk before the end of 1935.
This marked the implementation of the first official water provisioning programme in the Park. The main idea was to allow a more even distribution of game throughout the KNP and to prevent the emigration of animals outside the Park, even though the reserve was not even fenced in those early years.
Kruger's water provision policy evolved over time and a number of artificial waterpoints were established, notably under the Water for Game initiative. During recent years, within the Park's policy of adaptive management, a new water provision policy had been adopted.
As part of this policy, it was found that the unnatural water provisioning - dams and boreholes - has an adverse effect on the environment and some species of animals. As a result of this, a new policy was put into place to remove a selected number of redundant dams and boreholes.
'The SANDF volunteered to assist with the removal of some of these structures, as they then get the opportunity to exercise their skills on large structures,' says Jacques Venter, Kruger bio-technician based in Phalaborwa and co-ordinator of the recent rehabilitation of the Shisakashanghondzo Dam. 'The dam was successfully removed without problem.
The resulting rubble is being cleared and the rehabilitation process is underway before the onset of expected heavier rainfall later in the season
It is hoped that after the rains, there will be little evidence of the dam's existence.' Other redundant structures on the rehabilitation programme include Langtoon Dam, the Biyamiti gauging weir and dam wall in Bangu Spruit.