The governments of South Africa and Lesotho on Thursday launched Phase 2 of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP), of which Phase 1 had been operational since 2004.
Phase 2 of the LHWP would be implemented in terms of two distinct systems, namely a water delivery system to augment the delivery of water to South Africa and a hydropower generation system.
This phase would include the construction of the Polihali dam, the extension of the Muela hydroelectric complex, the construction of a 38.2 km water transfer tunnel connecting the Polihali reservoir with the hydroelectric complex, access roads to the project sites, camps, power transmission lines and administration centres.
Speaking at the LHWP Phase 2 sod-turning ceremony, President Jacob Zuma said the project represented a win-win mechanism for the two countries involved as it provided needed water to South Africa and created an opportunity for the required infrastructure development and energy generation in Lesotho.
“Phases 1 and 2 will provide Lesotho with a number of benefits. There have been benefits of infrastructure development during Phase 1, which has included 102 km of paved roads, 265 km of gravel roads, 1 133 km of roads rehabilitated to Grade 1 standard and 11 bridges built, including three bridges between Lesotho and South Africa in Maseru, Maputsoe and Caledonspoort,” he pointed out.
The benefits for Lesotho also included 299 km of power lines, staff housing for an estimated 300 workers and hydroelectricity generation estimated at 72 MW.
Further, the building of the Metolong dam, as part of LHWP Phase 1, to which South Africa contributed R50-million, also met Lesotho’s water needs.
“On the other hand, benefits to South Africa are also immense. The country gains high-quality water transfers and job opportunities. There is improved infrastructure in Clarens, Fouriesburg, Ficksburg and Ladybrand in the form of new border crossings and improved amenities, community halls, clinics, houses and enhanced rail facilities such as in Ficksburg,” Zuma said.
On Thursday, he also reassured Lesotho of South Africa’s commitment to the project.
“We commit ourselves to doing everything possible to ensure the full realisation of this important cross-border project that epitomises the everlasting and enduring friendship between Lesotho and South Africa,” Zuma noted.