The second phase of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP),which includes the construction of Polihali Dam and a hydro-electricity power station in Kobong, was launched at Tlokoeng in Mokhotlong on Thursday by His Majesty King
Letsie III and South African President Jacob Zuma.
Estimated to cost M15 billion, the project will see Lesotho transfer more water to South Africa once the dam, whose construction begins in 2017, is complete.
There will also be a hydro-electric station to generate electricity for Lesotho and also export to South Africa.
Lesotho currently transfers 10 billion cubic metres of water annually to South Africa and this is expected to increase to 15 billion cubic metres after the completion of Polihali Dam.
King Letsie III said the project would continue to enhance the livelihoods of the peoples of the two neighbouring countries, especially Basotho whom he said would be considered first for employment as thousands of jobs will be created by the initiative, expected to be completed in 2022.
“The thousands of jobs to be created by the project will benefit our peoples and enhance their livelihoods,” His Majesty said, adding Basotho and South Africans will be given first preference, followed by peoples from the rest of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region.
The launch of Phase II, His Majesty added, was a continuation of a ground-breaking treaty which was signed by the two countries in 1986.
The King said the first phase, which was completed in 2004, had yielded remarkable benefits for Basotho, from job-creation to infrastructure-development, adding vast access roads had been built around the project areas at the Mohale and Katse dams.
The hydro-electric power station at ‘Muela had also ensured electricity access for many Basotho, His Majesty also said.
The King also addressed the social responsibility aspect of the project, pointing out that consultative meetings were already being held between the authorities of the project and residents who would have to be relocated.
“I have been told that the meetings are already being held to inform the people how the construction of the dam would affect them. I encourage you to attend the meetings without failure because it is at these gatherings where issues such as relocation and compensation for those who will be affected, would be discussed,” he said.
On his part, the principal chief of Mokhotlong, Chief Mathealira Seeiso, urged those who would be responsible for employing people on the project to do so without bias.
“All of you who will be responsible for the hiring of people for the project, are urged to do so without discriminating against anyone based on political affiliation, religion, sex or any other reason,” Chief Seeiso said.
On the other hand, Zuma described Phase II of the project as a “memorable landmark” in the growing bilateral cooperation between South Africa and Lesotho.
Zuma also said Lesotho and South Africa had longstanding historical bonds of “friendship between our two countries and peoples. We are bound together by a rich history, making our destinies inextricably linked.
“South Africa and Lesotho are not only neighbours; we are also members of the same family. We speak the same language; we share the same culture and tradition,” Zuma said.
The project, he added, would benefit the two countries and address their different needs.
“The project represents a win-win mechanism as it provides much-needed water to South Africa and creates an opportunity for the required infrastructure-development and energy-generation in Lesotho, as well as revenue through royalties.
“There have been benefits of infrastructure development during Phase I which has included 102 kilometres of paved roads, 265 kilometres of gravel roads, 1,133 kilometres of roads rehabilitated to Grade 1 standard, 11 bridges built, including three bridges between Lesotho and South Africa in Maseru, Maputsoe and Caledonspoort.
“The benefits also include 299 kilometres of power lines, staff housing for an estimated 300 workers as well as hydro electricity generation estimated at 72 megawatts,” Zuma said.