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Majoro tours Polihali construction site


Bereng Mpaki

PRIME Minister Moeketsi Majoro on Thursday toured the construction site of two diversion tunnels of the Polihali dam under the second phase of Lesotho Highlands Water Project Project (LWHP II).

Dr Majoro was accompanied by Water Minister, Nkaku Kabi and other government officials for the tour. He inspected the one-kilometre long tunnel along with Lesotho Highlands Development Authority (LHDA) chief executive officer (CEO), Tente Tente.

The two tunnels, which are nine and seven metres wide, will convey water diverted from the river to ensure that dam wall construction takes place in a dry area, uninterrupted by the river flow.

Now nearing completion, the construction of the tunnels started in June 2020. It is being undertaken by the SCLC- Joint Venture, which comprises the South African Salini Impregilo S.p.A, Cooperativa Muratori Cementistri CMC di Ravenna (South African branch), Lesotho-based LSP Construction (Pty) Ltd and South African CMI Infrastructure Ltd under the supervision of the Metsi a Senqu-Khubelu Consultants Joint Venture (MSKC-JV). MSKC-JV also designed the diversion tunnels.

The SCLC – Joint Venture was awarded the diversion tunnel construction contract in February 2019 with its completion planned for end of 2021.

The construction progress of the tunnels is regarded as a significant milestone in the construction of LHWP II works.

Mr Tente told the Sunday Express on the sidelines of the tour that the LHDA was impressed by the “on schedule” construction of the tunnels.

“We are happy that the completion of the tunnels is on course to be completed on schedule since failure to do so could hamper the construction of the wall. We expect the contractor (of the wall) to start work in the second half of 2022.”

The LHDA in August 2021 published the dam construction tender with closing date for bids being in November 2021.

LWHP II builds on the successful completion of Phase I in 2003. It delivers water to the Gauteng region of South Africa and utilises the water delivery system to generate electricity for Lesotho. Phase II will increase the current water transfer rate of 780 million cubic metres per annum incrementally to more than 1 270 million cubic metres per annum.

At the same time, it will increase the quantity of electricity generated at the ‘Muela hydropower station from approximately 500GWh to 800GWh per year and is a further step in the process of securing an independent electricity source to meet Lesotho’s domestic requirements. The hydropower further feasibility studies confirmed that conventional hydropower is the preferred option for the Phase II hydropower component and identified three potential sites.

Meanwhile, Dr Majoro on Friday handed over 7000 hectares of rehabilitated rangeland to the Motšeremeli community in Mokhotlong.

The rehabilitation was funded by the LHDA. The rehabilitated land was previously infested with invasive plants including the chrysocoma ciliate family of shrubs.

Apart from threatening livestock production, land degradation in the dam area has been identified as a to LHWP II. This because it also threatens the life of wetlands which are key sources of the water flowing into the river system in the project area.

The LHDA joined the range rehabilitation exercise in 2019. The programme was initiated by the Forestry, Range and Soil Conversation Ministry which hired members of the community to uproot the invasive plants for a monthly stipend.

In the three-year period where the LHD was involved in the project, over 5000 people gained temporary employment. The LHDA spent M12 million on paying the workers.

After touring the rehabilitated area on Friday, Dr Majoro said it was imperative for the farming community to preserve their rangelands on which they depend to feed their livestock.

“As a farming community, your lives are reliant on the rangeland and if you do not take care of it, you will struggle to survive,” Dr Majoro said.

“The successful rehabilitation of this range is a template which should be reproduced in many other areas around the country as range degradation is fast taking up grazing space.

“This great initiative here is a drop in the ocean given the extent of rangeland degradation around the country.”

On his part, Mr Tente said rangeland and wetland rehabilitation was part of the LHDA’s work to support communities affected by their works.

“Wetlands are the reason for which our rivers keep flowing even during dry weather conditions, and destroying them through bad livestock grazing can lead to serious problems of water shortage,” Mr Tente said.

On his part, Forestry minister, Motlohi Maliehe, said it was imperative for different stakeholders to get involved in the fight against range degradation for maximum impact.

He said the government was therefore, looking for more partners with whom to forge relations that will address range degradation across the country.

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