MASERU – The Lesotho Highlands Water Authority (LHDA) this week briefed editors from local media outlets to explain in detail the work done so far under the Phase II of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP) and projections in the short term. At current rates the project is projected to cost up to M32 billion but the figure is subject to review every six months given fluctuating costs of materials and other things.
The mammoth project is expected to deliver water by 2027. Among some of the lessons learnt, the authority said they have revised their compensation model in several ways to minimize communities’ dissatisfaction experienced under the first phase.
Once complete, the project is expected to increase water exports to South Africa by one third while royalties are also expected to increase by one third from the current M1.2 billion a year. Capacity to generate hydro-electricity at ‘Muela would also increase considerably since more water will be flowing through the system increasing the ability to generate electricity for more sustained periods without the government necessarily putting more investment in it.
Commencement of infrastructure construction activities for the LHWP Phase II was held at Malingoaneng in the Mokhotlong district Maluti Mountains in a ceremony attended by then Minister of Water, Samonyane Ntsekele and South Africa’s then Minister of Human, Settlement, Water and Sanitation Lindiwe Sesulu as well as other high ranking government officials representing both countries. Phase II of the LHWP comprises the construction of the Polihali Dam and Transfer Tunnel, hydropower generation, social and environmental programmes.
Besides increasing water exports to the perennially thirsty Gauteng industrial hub, the multi-billion Maloti project will increase the amount of hydro-electric power generated domestically as parts of steps towards securing an independent power supply to meet Lesotho’s domestic requirements. The project is also set to drive socio-economic change in the region, creating job opportunities for approximately 3 000 unskilled and semi-skilled Basotho during construction of the main works.
The Phase II agreement was signed in 2011 and ratified in 2013 and to date, several contracts are in force for advance infrastructure construction contracts. Construction work of Phase II is underway following awarding of the first construction contract for Polihali North-East Access Road (PNEAR) to Sinohydro and Nthane Brothers Joint Venture by the LHDA.
The project is envisaged to foster capacity building and economic growth of both Lesotho and South Africa, and both governments have made provisions in the policy for sharing of the value of all infrastructure works on equal monetary basis between consultants and contractors registered in both countries, thereby indicating that in this joint venture, Lesotho will have 60 percent monopoly while SA will be entitled to 40 percent.
Phase II of LHWP builds on the successful completion of Phase I in 2003; it delivers water to the Gauteng region of SA and utilises the water delivery system to generate hydro-electricity of Lesotho. It is expected that Phase II will increase the current supply rate of 780 million cubic metres per annum to more than 1270 million cubic metres per annum, while at the same time increasing quantity of electricity generated in Lesotho which is a further step in the process of securing an independent electricity source to meet Lesotho’s domestic requirements.