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Lesotho dithers on water project


World Bank reveals Lesotho has not yet made a formal application for funding concerning Phase Two of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project

Billy Ntaote

Washington DC

The World Bank (WB) has not received a formal request from Lesotho to provide funding for Phase Two of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP2), which the country is jointly undertaking with South Africa.

The Banks vice-president for Africa, Makhtar Diop, told the Sunday Express he had discussed the M15billion project with Prime Minister Thomas Thabane during the US-African Leaders Summit held in Washington DC last week.

Mr Diop said although the international financial institution had been Lesotho’s key funder in Phase One of the project— which was inaugurated in 2004 and comprised the construction of Katse and Mohale dams, Muela hydropower station and associated tunnels—there had not been any formal discussions regarding the Bank’s participation in the second phase of the initiative.

The LHWP2 would, among others, see Polihali Dam being built in Mokhotlong beginning 2017, as well as the construction of feeder-roads, settlements and a hydroelectric-generation plant at Kobong in Leribe district.

But according to Mr Diop, the WB was still waiting for a formal request from the Lesotho government to be part of the LHWP2.

But according to the LHWP2 agreement, Lesotho is expected to finance the implementation of the Kobong Pump Storage Scheme, while South Africa bankrolls the construction of Polihali.

However, Mr Diop told the Sunday Express during a press briefing held at the World Bank headquarters last Thursday, the WB was still waiting for a formal funding request from the government of Lesotho to finance the hydropower component of the LHWP2.

“On the Lesotho Highlands Water Project, yes, indeed the World Bank participated in the first phase and now we are waiting for a formal request for funding. During my courtesy visit to the Prime Minister during the US-African Leaders Summit here, he mentioned the hydropower project.

“And now I am trying to see if I can come to Lesotho to participate in the Job Summit that is coming soon, and see if we can discuss the issue further. I want to see if I can make it there,” Mr Diop said.

Mr Diop also spoke about Africa’s renewable energy revolution the World Bank is funding, which seeks to ensure there is enough energy for the continent’s economic growth.

“There is a big push now by the World Bank on electricity generation in Africa. We are also trying to interconnect electricity grids in different African countries to ease power-shortages.

“If you don’t have power, you can’t create employment and you’re actually killing the already existing jobs, so there is a need to fuel these industries growing in Africa today with affordable energy.”

Mr Diop also emphasised African countries needed to maximise their economic capacity.

“We are blessed with some of the world’s hydropower and geothermal resources, bountiful solar and wind resources, as well as significant natural gas reserves. Total power-generation capacity in Africa is about 80 000 megawatts, including power produced by South Africa that is roughly the same as that of Spain and South Korea.

“If we interconnect our economies, it would be a win-win situation for all Africans. So we are working on different fronts, most specifically on renewable energy in Africa from solar energy to hydropower.

“Africa needs to add 7 000megawatts of electricity generation capacity each year to meet the projected growth in demand, yet it has achieved only 1000 megawatts of additional power-generation

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