The second-phase of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP), a R7,3-billion project between the governments of South Africa and Lesotho, aims to increase economic growth by creating local employment opportunities.
Despite infrastructure and compensation costs that include the relocation of about 13 000 families from surrounding areas, the project seeks to invest in local development.
The Lesotho Highlands Water Commis-sion’s (LHWC’s) chief delegate, Sixtus Tohlang, tells Engineering News that thousands of nationals will be recruited for the project, while villagers from the surrounding communities will be appointed as unskilled labour.
“We will source semiskilled and skilled employees locally, and from outside the country,” he adds.
South Africa and Lesotho announced their plan to begin construction on the second phase of the LHWP late last year.
The project will ensure continuing water supply to Gauteng, as well as the rest of the Vaal river water supply area, and will involve the construction of the 165-m-high, 2,2-billion-cubic-metre-capacity reservoir Polihali dam, in the Mokhotlong district, in Lesotho.
Construction work will begin in 2011 and will be completed around 2017. Water will delivered to South Africa in 2018.
Construction of the Polihali dam will consist of a reservoir on two main rivers enclosed by a 165-m-high wall. The water from the dam will flow through a series of tunnels and through the Ash river, in the Free State, into the Vaal system, after generating hydropower at Muela, in Lesotho.
The LHWP was chosen as the preferred option to augment the Vaal system because of its low energy requirement. Water can be transferred to the Vaal river system under gravity, while water from the Tugela river would have had to be pumped over the escarpment and into the system.
The project will be funded off budget from funds borrowed from capital markets. Tenders for the project will be managed by the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority (LHDA), under the supervision of the LHWC. The final go-ahead for the second phase of the LHWP is subject to the conclusion of a protocol between South Africa and Lesotho.
The construction of the second phase follows feasibility studies, which began in October 2005 and were completed in May 2008. The studies assessed potential options, such as new dams, tunnel routes, pump-stations, hydropower stations and infrastructure upgrading, with the view to identifying the preferred development of the next stage of the LHWP.
From the 20-tunnel route options identified during the first stage of the study, three routes from a common intake location on the proposed Polihali dam to three separate locations into the Katse dam were chosen during stage two.
The second phase of the LHWP will increase the existing hydro-power generation capacity of the Muela hydropower station, which was commissioned under the first phase of the LHWP. This will bring substantial benefits to Lesotho, including decreased carbon emissions.