Italian-based international engineer and contractor Salini Impregilo's subsidiary Salini Namibia has resumed construction of the $401-million Neckartal Dam on the Fish River in Namibia after a brief stoppage due to non-payment of arrears by the Namibian government.

"Salini Impregilo's unit Salini Namibia has found itself on more than one occasion forced to slow down or halt work altogether as a result of late payment," said Gilles René Castonguay, spokesperson for Salini Impregilo Group.

Castonguay said the most significant stoppage occurred in September. "Work resumed in early October," he said, "but there has since been some slowing of the pace." The project, initially slated for completion in 36 months, will now be completed in 2018, he said.

Project costs for the curved gravity dam, located 40 kilometers northwest of the city of Keetmanshoop, has escalated to $401 million from the previous estimate of $289 million in September 2013 when construction commenced. Castonguay said the project cost escalation could partly be due to the cost of compensation for families whose homes will be relocated and the cost "was not part of our project."

The roller compacted concrete-built dam project involves excavation of 800,000 cu meters of earth and rock from the riverbed and construction of abutments on either side of the river, according to Salini's project brief. It also has a reservoir with capacity to hold up to 880 million cu m of water on a surface of 40 sq km that will take up to two years to fill.

The dam is 80 m high and 518 m long and has provision for a pumping station with two Francis turbines with 1.5MW capacity each. Salini says the water from the reservoir will be used to produce energy with the turbines for a pumping station at an abstraction weir located 13 km downstream.

The weir, which is 360 m long and 9 m high, will transport water from the pumping station 10 km via steel pipe to a holding dam with a reservoir capacity of 90,000 cu m before it is channeled to a nearby 12,000-acre fruit-irrigation operation.