Length of 2 750 kilometers, it takes its source in Zambia, makes a short incursion in Angola, returns to Zambia from which it delimits the border with the Namibia then with the Zimbabwe and crosses the Mozambique where it throws in the Indian Ocean. Its basin covers 1,33 million km ² and the rains which feed it are concentrated between November and March. Its usual flow is relatively modest, of 2 000 with 3 000 m ³ /s, but it reached 32 800 m ³ /s in February 1956. Its principal affluents are the Kafue and the Shire, emissary of the Lac Malawi. From one end to another, it is spanned only by five bridges, with Chinyingi, Katima Mulilo, the Chutes Victoria, Chirundu and Tete.
The most spectacular place of the Zambezi is the Chutes Victoria, the largest cataract of the world with its 1 700 meters broad and its 108 meters in height, divided between Zambia and Zimbabwe. Upstream of these falls, the river runs in the plain of the Barotseland which it floods periodically. Downstream, it follows a basaltic Canyon and is completed by a vast delta favourable with the Cabotage. In spite of its broken course, the Zambezi offers long navigable portions.
The hydroelectric power of the river is concentrated on two dam. The stopping of Kariba is used by Zambia and Zimbabwe, and the stopping of Cahora Bassa in Mozambique feeds in energy the South Africa and in particular Johannesburg. There exists also a smaller powerplant with the Victoria falls.
The river takes its source in the black marsh in the North-West of the Zambia, while curving in hills timbered with approximately 1,500 meters with the top of the Sea level. In the east of the source, the watershed between the Congo and the basins of the Zambezi are a well delimited belt of raised hillocks, falling abruptly to north and the south, and extending almost from is in west between 11th and 12th parallels. That distinctly isolates the basin from Luapula (the principal branch of higher Congo) of that of the Zambezi. In the vicinity of the source, the watershed is not also clearly defined, but the two systems of river do not communicate.
The higher course
After being itself past towards south-west during approximately 240 km, the river turns oblique towards the south, and is joined by many Affluent S. With a few kilometers upstream of Kakengi, the river widens from 100 to 350 meters, and downstream occurs by many Rapide S finishing in the Chutes from Chavuma, where it runs out then through a rock crack. The first of the principal affluents of the Zambezi is the Rivière Kabompo in the north-western province of Zambia. A little more in the south occurs the junction with the broadest river: the river Lungwebungu. The Savane through which the river is stretched leads to a larger valley of bush, strewn with palm trees Borassus. Along the first 160 kilometers of the higher course, the dense vegetation is limited to narrow bands of forest hardly extending beyond a few hundreds from meters from banks from the Zambezi itself as well as its principal affluents.
From an altitude of 1500 meters to its source, the river falls at an altitude approximately 1100 meters in Kakengi, to 350 km downstream. Starting from this point until the Falls of Victoria, the level of the basin is very uniform, decreasing by only 180 meters. Thirty kilometers downstream from the junction of Lungwebungu, the landscape becomes flat, and with the rain season the plain around is abundantly flooded. 80 kilometers downstream, the Luanginga which, with its affluents irrigate a vast area towards the west, joined the Zambezi. A few kilometers higher towards the east, principal flow is joined by the Luena.
At a short distance downstream from the junction with Luanginga is Lealui, one of the capitals of the Peuple Lozi which occupies in Zambia the semi-autonomous area of the Barotseland. The chief of Lozi has two places of residence, the other with Limulunga, being located more in height and holding place of capital lasting the rain season. Annual displacement between Lealui with Limulunga is an major event, celebrated like one of the most known festivals of Zambia, the Kuomboka.
Beyond Lealui, the river obliques towards south-east. It continues to receive many small brooks on its left bank, but its Right Bank does not receive affluents during 240 km, to the confluence with the river Cuando. Before that, the Falls Ngonye and the rapids which follow stop navigation. To the south of the Ngonye falls, the river briefly skirts the band of Caprivi of the Namibia. The band overflows of Namibia, and results from the colonial period: it was attached to the German Africa of south-west with an only aim of giving an access to the Zambezi to the Germany.
Beyond the junction with Cuando, the Zambezi moves then practically full is. Here, the river is very broad and not very deep, and runs rather slowly. By reaching the Eastern edge of the large African central plate, it engages in a kind of pit and plunges literally. They are famous and majestic the Chutes Victoria.
The average Zambezi
The falls of Victoria are regarded as the border between the higher and average limit of the Zambezi. Downstream the river continues to run right towards the east during approximately 200 km, crossing perpendicularly through the walls of Basalte from 20 to 60 meters, separated by hills from 200 to 250 m in height. The river runs out gently through the throat, the current being continuously stopped by shelves. Beyond the throat a succession of rapids is finishing to 240 km downstream from the falls of Victoria. At this distance, the river loses 250 meters of altitude.
At this point, the river penetrates in the Lac Kariba, created in 1959 with the completion of the Barrage Kariba. The lake is one of the more artificial big lakes of the world, and the hydroelectric factories provide in electricity the major part of the Zambia and the Zimbabwe.
The Luangwa and the Kafue are the two most important affluents on left bank of the Zambezi. Kafue measures approximately 180 Mr. from broad with his junction. To the junction of Luangwa (15°37' S) the Zambezi enters in Mozambique.
The average Zambezi finishes when the river penetrates in the lake Cahora Bassa (also written Cabora Bassa). The dangerous rapids known formerly under the name of Kebrabassa were submerged in 1974 at the time of the setting in water of the dam Cahora Bassa.
The lower course
The lower course of the Zambezi, is 650 km starting from Cahora Bassa to the Indian Ocean is navigable, although the river is not very deep in many places during the Saison dries. This low depth occurs when the river enters a broad valley and is spread out in a broad bed. It there only with the Throats of Lupata, to 320 km of its mouth, that the river is enclosed between high hills, broad then of hardly 200 meters. In plain, the average width is 5 to 8 km and finishes in delta. The bed of the river is sandy, and the banks are low and glazes of reeds. At this place, particularly at the time of the rain season, the floods are linked in only one broad quickly circulating river.
To approximately 160 km of its mouth, the Zambezi receives the drainage of the Lac Malawi by the river Shire. While approaching the Indian Ocean, the river is divided into many branches and form broad a delta. Each of the four principal branches, Milambe, Kongone, Luabo and Timbwe, is blocked by sand banks. More in north, the mouth of Chinde has a depth between a minimum of 2 meters water at the entry and 4 meters beyond that. It is used for navigation. 100 km more in north are the river Quelimane, and with its mouth the éponyme city. This flood, which envase, receives the overflow of the Zambezi during the rain season. The delta of the Zambezi is about half today less broad than it was before the construction of the dams Kariba and Cahora Bassa intended to control the seasonal variations of flow in particular in winter.
The area drained by the Zambezi is a vast plate, with the abrupt edge, from 900 to 1200 meters of altitude, made up in the center of metamorphic layers isolated and in the sector from the Victoria falls of magmatic rocks. With Shupanga, on the lower Zambezi, of thin layers of sandstone gray and yellow, with sometimes a Calcareous band of , levels on the bed of the river during the dry season, and this until - beyond Tete, where vast seams of coal meet. One also finds however coal in the area right downstream from the Victoria falls. One also meets a certain number of gold bearing seams at various places.
The Zambezi has many affluents. Some of most important are described here, on the basis of the upstream.
The Kabompo runs out since the highlands forming the watershed between the systems of the Congo and the Zambezi. It itself is consisted the meeting of higher Kabompo and the Lunga river (slightly broader), and is joined the Zambezi in the north of the town of Lukulu. The Lungwebungu, which is thrown in the Zambezi downstream a little in the south of the junction with Kabompo, 200 meters is broad in its higher course and runs out in a valley bordered of fine sands, covered with a clear forest and whose ground is sometimes flooded over a width of several kilometers.
The Rivière Cuando, most important from the affluents of Right Bank is born in Angola, and forms the border between Zambia and the Angola on part of its course, before obliquing towards the south, then finally towards the east to join the Zambezi. In this last section, Cuando finds with difficulty its way through vast a Marais truffle of alluvial islands, on a distance from nearly 110 km. With its southernmost elbow, it is joined by the Magwekwana, which in period of flood receives the surplus of water of the Okavango, when the level of the lake overflows, contributing to increase the flow of Cuando appreciably, while at the same time its own rising is completed.
Broadest of the affluents of the average Zambezi, the Kafue, takes its source in Zambia in the province of the Copperbelt, not far from the border with the Democratic republic of Congo, at an altitude of 1350 meters in a dense forest sector. The principal current is joined later by the Lunga (or Lunaga). The Barrage Itezhi-Tezhi provides an important hydroelectric energy source. The river also constitutes a medium privileged for the large fauna and the flora, protected within largest National park from Zambia, the National park of Kafue. The downstream part of Kafue borrows a succession of falls and rapids, tumbling down several hundreds of meters in only 25 km.
The Luangwa, more in the east, is also an important affluent, born in the North-West of the Lac Malawi, to which it runs in parallel in its higher course. Generally, Luangwa runs out in a valley punt framed by the escarpments rather abrupt of the neighbouring plates. Its bed is not very deep but fast, though relatively broad. Its own affluents, the Lunsemfwa and the Lukasashi drain most of the Zambian Western plate. Luangwa joined the Zambezi a little bit upstream town of Zumbo. The valley of Luangwa constitutes an important natural zone of protection of the wild life, in particular thanks to the national parks of North Luangwa National Park and of South Luangwa. In addition, it is used as border between the Zambia and the Mozambique on a distance of approximately 75 km before its junction with the Zambezi.
Beyond, the Zambezi receives the contribution of various rivers coming from north Zimbabwe, the such Shangani, the Sanyati or the Hanyani. The Mazoe which is born in the Mashonaland throws in the Zambezi downstream from the dam Cahora Bassa.
The exploration of the river
The area of the Zambezi was known geographers of the Middle Ages as an Empire of the Monomotapa and the course of the river, just like the position of the Ngami lakes and Nyasa, were generally located with precision in the first charts, most probably starting from Arab information of sources.
The first European to visit the higher Zambezi was David Livingstone in his exploration of Bechuanaland between 1851 and 1853. Two or three years later, it descended the Zambezi to its mouth and during its voyage discovered the Victoria falls. During 1858 to 1860, accompanied by John Kirk, Livingstone made the rise of the river by the mouth of Kongone also far the falls, and thus traced the course of its affluents Shire and reached the lake Malawi.
Very few explorations of the river took place during the 35 years which followed, but in 1889, the Chinde channel in the principal north of the mouth was discovered. Two forwardings carried out by the commander A. St Hill Gibbons in 1895 to 1896 and 1898 to 1900 continued the work of exploration started with Livingstone in the upstream reservoir and the central course of the river. The Portuguese exploration of Serpa Pinto examined certain affluents of the west of the river and made measurements on the Victoria falls in 1878.
Fauna and flora
The river shelters a population of many and varied animals. The Hippopotame S abound with the length of the calm sections of the river, just like many Crocodile S. Of the Varan S are present in many places. The Oiseau X are also abundant, through species such as the Héron, the Pélican, the Aigrette and the Pygargue vociferates very present. The river wooded area shelters also many animals: Buffalo S, Zebra S, Giraffe S and elephant S. Cependant, downstream from Kariba and of the dam Cahora Based, the end of the annual seasonal Inondation S involved a drastic reduction of their surface of habitat and consequently a very strong reduction in their number, as well as other species of mammals.
The Zambezi also counts several hundreds of species different of Poisson S, of which some endemic of this biotope. Many species, in particular cichlidés , largely fished for the food, as well as Silure S, characins , Yellowfish (family of carps) and other species are present. The Shark bulldog, sometimes known under the denomination of shark of the Zambezi, with broad of the delta, meets nevertheless also elsewhere around the world. Its normal habitat is in coastal water but it goes up sometimes, until rather far towards the interior of the grounds, the course of certain rivers, of which the Zambezi. It is an aggressive shark, responsible for many attacks on the man.
The population of the valley of the river of the Zambezi is estimated at approximately 32 million. Approximately 80% of the population of the valley depend on the Agriculture, and the floodplains of the higher river provide good arable lands.
The communities living close to the river practice fishing in an extensive way, and from many people come by far to fish. Certain towns of Zambia located on the roads carrying out towards the river apply, apart from any official text, “of the taxes of fishing” towards those which carry fish fished in the Zambezi towards other parts of the country. Beside economic fishing, the Pêche of leisure is a significant activity on certain parts of the river. Between Mongu and Livingstone, several installations for safaris are intended for the tourists in the search of exotic species; many catches also fish to sell them with the aquariums.
The valley of the river is rich in mineral deposits and fossile fuel; the extraction of the coal is important in certain places. The Barrage S which mark out it provide also employment to many residents, in particular in the activities of maintenance of the hydroelectric stations and the stoppings themselves. Several parts of the river are also very popular tourist destinations. The falls of Victoria receive more than 1.500.000 visitors per annum, while the Mana Pools and Lac Kariba attract also many tourists.
The river is frequently stopped of Rapide S and, so forever made up an important road of transport on long distance. However, locally, it is often easier to travel in Canoë along the river rather than on the rudimentary roads often in very bad condition because regularly submerged by water, and much of small villages along banks are accessible only by boat.
Only five bridges cross the river along its course, of which one is only one footbridge. However, to many places of the Ponton S transport people and vehicles along the river. The Pont of the falls Victoria was the first built, and completed in April 1905. Initially it was a question of a bond in the plan of Cecil Rhodos of building a railway line between the city of the Cape and Cairo. The bridge is of 250 m, with a principal arch spanning a 150 m length, and the top of the bridge is with 150 meters with the top of the level of the river.
Thereafter, of the bridges were built in Chirundu in Zambia (1939 and replaced in 2003), in Tete in Mozambique (in the years 1960) and in Chinyingi in the north of Zambia in the years 1970 (this last is only one footbridge). 2004 saw the realization of a bridge spanning the river of Sesheke in Zambia with Katima Mulilo in Namibia, the completion of TransCaprivi Highway and the connection Lusaka in Zambia with Walvis Bay on the coast of Namibia.
The Effluent S of the sewers are one of the major causes of Pollution of water around the urban areas, just as the unsuited factories of purification present in the main cities of the area. This induces a Eutrophisation water of the river and, because of bad a Hygiène, supports the propagation of diseases such as the Choléra, the Typhus and the Dysenterie.
The construction of two major stoppings controlling the flow of the river had important consequences on fauna and the flora and the populations of the area of the lower Zambezi. When the stopping of Cahora Bassa was built in 1973, the authorities allowed its filling in only one rain season, whereas two seasons at least would have been necessary. The drastic reduction of the flow of the river involved a reduction of 40% of the cover of the Mangrove S, strongly increasing the erosion of the coastal region and a reduction of 60% of the capture of the Crevette S apart from the mouth because of a reduction in the site of the silt and of its Nutriment S. the ecosystem S of the wetlands downstream from the stopping were considerably faded.
On most of bank of the river, the population is rare but the main cities and cities along the river are inter alia:
Katima Mulilo (Namibia)
- Mongu, Lukulu, Livingstone, and Sesheke (Zambia)
- Victoria Falls and Kariba (Zimbabwe)
- Songo and Head (Mozambique)
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