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Consortium wins M8m Polihali contract


Rethabile Pitso

The Lesotho Highlands Development Authority (LHDA) has awarded Maleka, Ntsihlele, Putsoa Joint Venture (MNPJV) an M8 million contract for the demarcation of the Polihali reservoir— a crucial part of Phase II of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP).

The LHWP is a multi-phase, bi-national initiative established by a 1986 Treaty between Maseru and Pretoria, and involves the construction of dams and water-transfer tunnels in the two neighbouring nations, and the generation of hydro-electric power in Lesotho.

South Africa seeks to augment its water-supply for both domestic and industrial use through the project, while Lesotho expects to benefit from infrastructure such as roads, as well as royalties and electricity from the initiative.

Phase I of the LHWP, consisting of the construction of Katse and Mohale dams, Muela hydropower station and associated tunnels, was inaugurated in 2004, and Phase II processes were subsequently initiated in 2010.

The M15billion Phase II would, among others, see Polihali Dam being constructed at the confluence of Khubelu and Senqu rivers beginning 2017, with the project earmarked for completion in 2022.

King Letsie III and President Jacob Zuma of South Africa officially launched Phase II in March last year.

The LHDA is the implementing and management authority of the LHWP on behalf of Lesotho, while in South Africa, the project is governed by the Trans-Caledon Tunnel Authority.

According to the LHDA, the demarcation of the reservoir is “a critical project to be completed in advance of the construction of the dam and water-transfer tunnel”, which are the main components of Phase II.

Noted LHDA Chief Executive, Refiloe Tlali: “Work on the M8million reservoir demarcation contract commenced during April and is expected to be completed in 12 months.

“This is just one of many bid evaluations that will be completed during Phase II. Announcing the award is a proud moment for the LHDA and an important, tangible step in the implementation of Phase II.”

According to Ms Tlali, the demarcation “entails surveying the approximately 250-kilometre perimeter of the Polihali reservoir at 2 080 metres above sea level”.

Ms Tlali emphasised the importance of the demarcation, which she highlighted was important for the acquisition of land, resettlement and compensation for those whose homes and livelihoods would be affected by the dam’s construction.

Meanwhile, MNPJV is no stranger to the LHWP as the company was involved in the demarcation of Katse, Mohale and Muela in Phase I.

According to the Venture’s co-founder, Martin Tankiso Ntsihlele, the consortium would develop strategies to overcome some of the challenges it experienced during Phase I of the project.

“The biggest problem we faced during Phase I, which still remains today, is inaccessibility due to lack of roads. We had to resort to using donkeys as our mode of transport and we are still going to use the same strategy for the current project. However, those challenges aside, we do not foresee any major problems.

“We are already working towards establishing relations with Mokhotlong residents whose area we would be working around. Unlike with the previous projects, this time around, residents are aware of what constructing a dam involves and we are also going to employ many workers from the local community,” he said.

On his part, LHDA Public Relations Manager, Masilo Phakoe said the project was well underway following the completion of works which formed part of the preparatory stages.

“Phase II’s feasibility study report recommended that at least one gauging weir should be constructed downstream of the proposed dam site. The construction of this weir was done by the Lesotho Steel Products (Pty) Ltd and completed on 17 October 2013.

“The completion marked a very important milestone in the project, as the weir is recording the flow of water whose information will be used to verify the site’s specific hydrological data and the yield of the system,” he said.

Mr Phakoe further noted three of the four contracts which were awarded to carryout baseline studies on the social and environmental impacts, assessment of water quality and flow and areas of public health of the project had since been completed.

“For the Socio-Economic Baseline Study the contract was awarded to Coastal Environment Services Pty (Ltd) of South Africa and Nonyana Hoohlo & Associates (Lesotho). The objective was to establish a database of all individuals and households in the Polihali local catchment and collect information about income and expenditure patterns and levels of services enjoyed by people in the study area.

“For the Water Quality, Geomorphology & IFR Baseline Study, the contract was awarded to the Institute of Natural Resources (INR) of South Africa and GROW , an NGO based in Mokhotlong. The objective was to determine the flow regime required downstream of the dam to sustain the riverine ecology and basic human needs.

“For the Biological, Archaeology and Heritage Baseline Study, the contract was awarded to Coastal Environment Services (CES) Pty (Ltd) of South Africa. The objective was to record all cultural heritage resources, such as rock-paintings as well as flora and fauna that exist within the project area.

“All three have been completed whilst the fourth, the Public Health Baseline Study, is due for completion shortly. The objective of this is to gather baseline health information of the people in the project area. This information is used for future comparisons of the population’s state of health over the project period. It will feed into public health action plans to enhance the positives and improve on the negatives,” he said.


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