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LHWP II hits key milestones

Business

…as project enters into main stages of production

Bereng Mpaki

The implementation of the second phase of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP II) is progressing well into the main stages of construction, having achieved significant milestones to date.

The commencement of water transfer main works and the finalisation of the advance infrastructure in 2023 have brought Lesotho closer to realising the promises of enhanced hydropower generation and increased water transfer revenues.

Water transfer to South Africa is expected to commence in 2029, while hydropower generation is expected to follow in 2030.

Mpho Brown, the Public Relations Manager of Lesotho Highlands Development Authority (LHDA)  said several advance infrastructure construction programmes like the bulk power and telecommunications infrastructure, housing, diversion tunnels, roads, Katse Lodge upgrade, the Polihali operations centre and Polihali lodge have been completed.

LHDA is the Lesotho side implementing agency of the bi-national LHWP, while the Trans Caledon Tunnel Authority (TCTA) is the South African side implementing agency.

“We are confident that the Project will continue to progress steadily as we move into the final construction phase,” said Tente Tente, the LHDA’s Chief Executive.

Key milestones in the dam and tunnel construction include the diversion of the Senqu River by the pre-cofferdam and its diversion into the diversion tunnels.

Both upstream and downstream cofferdams were completed in January 2024, providing a dry working area for the construction of the Polihali Dam. Excavations of the main dam and intake structure have already begun.

Brown further revealed that the construction of the Senqu Bridge, the largest of the three bridges to be constructed under Phase II to span the Polihali reservoir, got underway in late 2022, and is projected for completion in 2026.

Spanning an impressive length of 825 meters across the reservoir, the majestic 90-meter-high Senqu Bridge will be the first extradosed bridge in Lesotho, which will add to the scenic allure of the country.

Along with the Senqu Bridge, two additional bridges commenced construction in August 2023, ensuring continued access to Mokhotlong town across the reservoir and connectivity to the national road network.

“The major bridges programme is complemented by the construction of four pedestrian bridges and six vehicle bridges under the feeder roads and bridges programme to maintain access and ensure mobility for communities across and around the reservoir area. The feeder roads and bridges programme is currently under procurement, the tender having been launched in November 2023,” Brown said.

He said the access roads programme consisting of the Polihali North East Access Road (PNEAR), the Polihali Western Access Road (PWAR) and the Northern Access Road (NAR) is also nearing completion.

“The operations centre is multifaceted building comprising an office building, exhibition hall, conference facilities and Visitors Information Centre. The building will be used by LHDA and dam consultants during the construction phase, and LHDA Polihali Operations will take it over post-construction.

“The commercial centre – the only one of its kind in the area, the nearest village convenience store being approximately 15 to 20 kilometres away in the Mapholaneng area, will accommodate retail outlets to meet the day-to-day needs of consumers at Polihali village and the immediate neighbouring villages. Anchored by a small supermarket, it will include speciality shops, and has space to accommodate a police post with the option to extend the centre to include a filling station at a later stage. The construction tender was awarded to Unik Construction Engineering in mid-January 2023.”   

The hydropower component of Phase II, the Oxbow Hydropower Scheme, is also progressing with procurement for design and engineering, Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA), and Resettlement Action Planning (RAP) studies.

Expected to start power generation in 2030, the Oxbow scheme’s 80MW capacity will complement the existing ‘Muela hydropower plant, reducing dependence on electricity imports.

In May 2023, a formal sod-turning ceremony at Malingoaneng, Mokhotlong marked a symbolic moment, officiated by His Majesty King Letsie III and the President of South Africa, His Excellency Cyril Ramaphosa.

The event underscored the warm relations between the two nations and their commitment to this cross-border water collaboration, considered one of the most successful in the world.

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