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Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP) timeline and all you need to know

Established through a Treaty signed between the Governments of the Kingdom of Lesotho and the Republic of South Africa in 1986, the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP) is recognised as one of the world’s most successful trans-boundary water resources management schemes.

The LHWP is expected to put in place the physical and managerial capacity for Lesotho to harness the surplus water of the Senqu/Orange River and its tributaries in order to effect the delivery of specified quantities of water to the designated outlet into the Republic of South Africa and by utilizing such delivery system to generate hydropower in the Kingdom of Lesotho.

Funding the project

The South African government is responsible for the infrastructure development costs associated with the water transfer component, including livelihood restoration and compensation costs, as well as the costs of the environmental and public health programmes.

The Lesotho government, on the other hand, is responsible for the infrastructure development costs associated with the hydropower component, including livelihood restoration and compensation costs, as well as the costs of the environmental and public health programmes. To date 46 contracts have been awarded in our procurement process. Below is the project’s timeline and all you need to know:

Also Read: Rusumo Hydroelectric Power Plant Project timeline and all you need to know

Project timeline
1986

In October, The Treaty on the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP) between the Government of Lesotho and the Government of the Republic of South Africa whose purpose is to provide for the establishment, implementation, operation and maintenance of the Project, was signed in Maseru, Lesotho.

The LHWP was originally designed to include four phases implemented over a period of 30 years and expected to transfer about 70 m3/s of water to the Gauteng Province in South Africa. However, the Parties committed to Phase I only, with subsequent phases subject to agreement between the Parties.

Phase I of the Project was completed in stages, viz. Phase IA and Phase IB. It was designed to transfer on average 25 cubic metres of water per second. Phase IA comprised the construction of the Katse Dam, the concrete- lined transfer tunnel through which water flows under gravity to the ‘Muela Hydro- Power Station, the ‘Muela Power Station, the ‘Muela Dam, and the delivery tunnel through which the water discharges into the Ash River, north of Clarens in South Africa.

Phase IB comprised the construction of the Mohale Dam and a concrete-lined gravity tunnel connecting the Mohale Reservoir with the Katse Reservoir. An additional component of Phase IB was the 19m high Matsoku diversion weir and interconnecting tunnel to transfer water from the Matsoku valley to the Katse Reservoir.

1998

In January, water transfer from Phase I commenced.

1999

In January, hydropower generation was commissioned.

2003

Phase I was successfully completed.

2004

Phase I was commissioned.

2011

Agreement for Phase II was signed.

2013

In mid-2013, the Agreement was subsequently ratified by the two governments. This was followed by the appointment of the specialist Project Management Unit within the LHDA to oversee the implementation of Phase II and the practical commencement of this second Phase of the Project.

As in the first Phase, Phase II comprises water transfer and hydropower components. It comprises the Polihali Dam to be built downstream of the confluence of the Khubelu and Senqu Rivers in the Mokhotlong district in the Eastern highlands of Lesotho, a 38km long water transfer tunnel which will link the Polihali reservoir to the Katse  reservoir and roads, bridges, high tension power lines and telecommunications systems, accommodation and construction facilities which form the advance infrastructure and which will largely be completed before the construction of the dam and tunnel commences.

Further feasibility studies for the hydropower component of Phase II have concluded that conventional hydropower is the more feasible option to meet Lesotho’s energy needs. In this regard, three potential sites were identified: two on the Senqu River and a third site at Oxbow on the Malibamats’o River. The plan is to start the design of the preferred option in 2021, construction in 2024 and to commission it at the same time as the Water Transfer component, which is 2027.

2020

In July, The pre-qualification for the Polihali Dam and Polihali Transfer Tunnel construction was cancelled and preparations for open tender are currently in progress.

Later the same year, three additional geotechnical investigations contracts for the Polihali transfer tunnel were awarded.

2021

In March, ten advance infrastructure contracts were awarded. Construction activities are at varying stages with some contracts planned to be completed in 2021.

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Dennis Ayemba
Country/ Features Editor, Kenya

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