SA speaks on Lesotho water project

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Herbert Moyo

THE South African government says the second phase of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP Phase II) should transform Lesotho’s economy and benefit disadvantaged groups including w omen, youths and people with disabilities.

The call was made this past week by officials in South Africa’s Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) during the second briefing session they hosted on the second phase of the LHWP in South Africa.

The event which was held in collaboration with the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority (LHDA) attracted a huge number of prospective contractors interested in bidding for projects under the second phase of the project.

The LHWP is a multi-phased project to provide water to the Gauteng region of South Africa and to generate hydro-electricity for Lesotho. It was established by the 1986 Treaty signed by the governments of Lesotho and South Africa.

The project entails harnessing the waters of the Senqu/Orange River in the Lesotho highlands through the construction of a series of dams for the mutual benefit of the two countries.

Phase I of the LHWP, consisting of the Katse and Mohale dams, the ‘Muela hydropower station and associated tunnels was completed in 2003 and inaugurated in 2004. Phase II of the LHWP is currently in progress. It consists of two separate but related components: water transfer and hydropower generation.

The bilateral project which is estimated to cost at least M23 billion, is expected to provide about 3 000 jobs at the peak of its operations.

The water transfer component of Phase II comprises an approximately 165m high concrete faced rock fill Dam at Polihali downstream of the confluence of the Khubelu and Senqu (Orange) Rivers and an approximately 38km long concrete-lined gravity tunnel connecting the Polihali reservoir to the Katse reservoir. Other Phase II activities include advance infrastructure (roads, accommodation, power lines and telecommunication, etc.) and the implementation of environmental and social mitigating measures.

The hydropower component of Phase II, which is currently under further feasibility studies, may include a pumped storage scheme, conventional hydropower such as the expansion of the ‘Muela infrastructure or new greenfield sites.

Its exact form will be determined on completion of the further feasibility studies. Phase II is expected to be substantially complete by the end of 2024.

The Lesotho Highlands Development Authority (LHDA) last week invited stakeholders to a briefing session in South Africa, which served to provide information relating to project schedule, procurement rules and the extent of construction works to be carried out as part of LHWP Phase II implementation.

The briefing sessions are designed to update the construction industry and other stakeholders on the challenges, the scope of work ahead under Phase II and the expected duration or programme.

Speaking at the session, South Africa’s Chief Delegate in the LHDA, Bheki Nkosi stressed their “commitment to ensuring economic development and social upliftment for the people of Lesotho”.

“We commit completely that at the end of the project, the people of Lesotho must be better off than before the project came into being.

“It is important that women, the young and those with disabilities participate in the process of ensuring sustainable development and continue to be empowered accordingly,” Mr Nkosi said.

An additional statement issued by the South African government also emphasised that the implementation of the project had to be carried out in tandem with a proactive engagement with communities that were affected by the project.

“Married to this (second phase) process is the need to engage proactively with the affected communities, being part of the lessons learnt from Phase I. The extent of the impact on the communities needs to be clearly spelt out.

“The communities need to have buy-in and as such allow for the disturbances to their livelihoods. In the final analysis, this will impact on the kind of resettlement to be experienced, reinstating the kind of services expected, and thus creating the necessary harmony in execution,” the South African government said.

For his part, the Chief Director responsible for Integrated Water Resources Planning in the DWS, Livhuwani Mabuda said apart from the envisaged socio-economic benefits accruing to both countries, the project should also facilitate the emergence of a new generation of players in business and entrepreneurship.

“We want to see new players and experts evolve out of Phase II. Young people want to benefit from the roll out of this project.

“We want new ventures, companies, collaborations to follow; new capacities and capabilities must evolve,” Mr Mabuda said on behalf of DWS Director, Dan Mashitisho.

He said the huge turnout for the second briefing was testimony to the fervent passion of nationals of the two countries “to contribute positively to the development of our two countries, looking at benefits that will be seen over a distant future”.

In its statement, the South African government also revealed that the value of the contracts are envisaged to vary between M1 million and M1 billion, ensuring opportunities arise for all size contractors.

It spoke about the need to “maximise procurement opportunities, minimise the utilisation of imported skills, goods and labour”.

“Part of the strategy is also to maximise the participation of Lesotho and South African contractors, especially black-owned entities,” part of the statement reads.

Meanwhile, the LHDA has awarded a M445 million consultancy contract to a contractor whose identity will only be revealed at a press briefing in Maseru on 4 July.

The LHDA recently said the contract was for “professional services for the design of the Polihali Dam and Appurtenant works”.

 

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