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Shire River
 
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Malawi's Main River


     Among all the resources that Malawi possesses, the water resource represented by Lake Malawi (Nyasa) and the Shire River flowing from it, is the most significant.

     The Shire River originates from Lake Malawi (470 meters above sea level) and flows through the Southern Region of Malawi, tending to the South, to its connection with the Zambezi (already in Mozambique). The Shire is the northern tributary of the Zambezi. The length of the Shire River is 520 km. On its way, the Shire River absorbs the power of many tributaries, of which the Ruo River is the most significant. Absorbing tributaries the Shire becomes very full-flowing to its confluence with the Zambezi.

     Upper Shire. In its beginning, the Shire is very deep, wide, and calm, because here it is, in fact, an extension of Lake Malawi. Soon the river enters into the Lake Malombe. Leaving the lake, the Shire flows several tens of kilometers through the territory of the Liwonde National Park. Here, the Shire is serene and wide, in some places the river spreads up to 500 meters wide, supported by the Kamuzu Barrage near the Liwonde township. The Kamuzu Barrage was built in 1965 to regulate the flow of water for the uninterrupted operation of the hydropower stations in the middle part of the river.

     Middle Shire. After Liwonde, the Shire is very calm, the water level difference is only a few meters per 50 kilometers of the river. Further, the nature of the river changes dramatically, it becomes narrow, fast and full of rapids, interspersed with waterfalls (Kholombidzo, Nkula, Tedzani, Hamilton and Kapichira waterfalls). The river falls 360 meters for 70 kilometers of its run.

     The force of the waterfalls is used to generate electricity. Currently, 3 hydropower stations have been commissioned: at the Nkula Fall, at the Tedzani Fall, at the Kapichira Fall. The total capacity of all three hydroelectric power stations is 350 megawatts of electricity. It is planned construction of new power plants at the Kholombidzo waterfall and near the village of Mpatamanga, also the fourth stage of the hydropower station at the Tedzani waterfall.

     Lower Shire. After the last waterfall of Kapichira, Shire calms down again. In the Lower Shire, the water level drop is very insignificant, about 10 meters per 90 kilometers of a river. The river enters strongly moistened, in places swampy plain, then it pours into the Elephant Marsh. It can be said that the river itself, slowing down and spreading, turns into a huge swamp. The area of the Elephant Marsh during the rainy season is more than 600 square kilometers. It is home to 110 species of birds, a population of hippos, in addition, Elephant Marsh is home to many species of fish. The Elephant Marsh has been declared a reserve of international importance (Ramsar Site no. 2308).

     Long ago, hunting for elephants in Malawi was common. There were no borders for hunters, the hunter could kill an elephant, even in the territory of another tribe, only giving half of the meat to the tribe chief, who owns the land where the elephant was hunted. The elephants had nowhere to run from a man armed with arrows and spears. And the elephants went to the marsh. Elephants love water, in the marsh there are a lot of green vegetation, which elephants can eat. Hunting an elephant in the marsh is pointless; a hunter will not be able to get a huge carcass out of the water. Having gone into the marsh, the elephants saved themselves from extermination. 150 years ago, David Livingston, having seen the elephants in this huge swamp, was the first to name this place Elephant Marsh.

     Leaving the Elephant Marsh, the Shire River flows about 80 kilometers along the Malawi-Mozambique border, then completely enters the territory of Mozambique, where it runs 75 kilometers until the merge with Zambezi River.

     On the photos: Middle Shire:

Middle Shire River Malawi

Middle Shire River Malawi

Middle Shire River Malawi

        
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