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LHWP II to create 9000 jobs: SA govt

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Tokelo Khausela

SOUTH Africa’s Department of Water and Sanitation has welcomed the awarding of two multi-billion rand contracts for Phase II of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP), saying 5000 new jobs will be created when work starts on the construction of the Polihali Dam.

This in addition to 4000 jobs that were created in both South Africa and Lesotho when construction of advance infrastructure works such as roads began three years ago, the department’s spokesperson, Sputnik Ratau, said in a statement.

He said this in the wake of the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority (LHDA)’s announcement a fortnight ago that it had awarded a massive M7, 68 billion tender for the construction of the Polihali Dam to the SUN Joint Venture which includes local business mogul, Tšeliso Nthane’s company, Nthane Brothers Pty (Ltd). Another Lesotho firm, SIGMA Construction, will also come in as one of the sub-contractors.

LHDA Phase II Divisional Manager, Ntšoli Maiketso, said they had also awarded a M9, 2 billion tender for the construction of the tunnel for the water transfer component of the project. Altogether, the dam construction and the tunnel project will cost almost M17 billion.

“We are excited to share with you the progress in the main works as the LHDA have been able to award the tenders for the tunnel and the dam construction,” Mr Maiketso said at a press conference in Maseru.

“The successful bidders were the SUN joint venture which comprises of Sinohydro Bureau 8 (China); Sinohydro Bureau 14 (China); Unik Civil Engineering (South Africa) and Nthane Brothers (Lesotho). Melki Civils and Plant Hire (South Africa); MECSA Construction (South Africa); SIGMA Construction (Lesotho) and Kunming Engineering (China) will be joining in as sub-contractors.

“The contract amount for the dam is M7, 68 billion. Construction is expected to start before the end of November (this year) and completion is expected in early 2028. Construction will be supervised by the Matla a Metsi Joint Venture, comprising GIBB (South Africa); MPAMOT Africa (South Africa); Tractebel Engineering/Coyne et Bellier (France) and LYMA Consulting Engineers (Lesotho.”

Mr Maiketso said Nthane Brothers had also been selected among the sub-contractors for the Polihali Transfer Tunnel whose main contract was awarded to the Kopana Ke Matla joint venture.

“The contract amount for the Polihali Transfer Tunnel is approximately M9.2 billion. The Kopana Ke Matla joint venture, which will construct the Polihali Transfer Tunnel, includes Yellow River Company (China); Sinohydro Bureau 3 (China) and Unik Civil Engineering (South Africa). The main subcontractors include Nthane Brothers of Lesotho, Esor Construction partners and Mecsa Construction of South Africa. Construction will be supervised by the Metsi a Senqu-Khubelu Consultants (MSKC) joint venture. MSKC comprises Lesotho-based FM Associates and South African firms Zutari South Africa, Hatch Africa, Knight Piesold and SMEC South Africa,” Mr Maiketso said.

In his subsequent statement, the Department of Water and Sanitation’s Mr Ratau said, “the awarding of the contracts for Phase II of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project comes at an opportune time when the department is getting all its ducks in a row to ensure adequate infrastructure to meet the current and future demand for water (in South Africa).

“The increasing population, coupled with rapid urbanisation, continuing economic activity, and the impact of climate change, (have all) put a strain on water infrastructure. Therefore, the sooner we complete Phase II of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project, the better.

“On completion, the Polihali Dam will increase the project’s current annual supply rate capacity from 780 to 1 270 million cubic metres,” Mr Ratau said.

He said thousands of jobs would be created by the project.

“The contracts are estimated to generate approximately 5 000 job opportunities continuously for a period of three years in both Lesotho and South Africa. To date, the advanced infrastructure programme has generated more than 4 000 jobs,” he said.

He added that work on Polihali Dam is expected to commence before the end of this month while construction of the Polihali Transfer Tunnel is set to start next month.

The project is expected to be commissioned in 2028

The LHWP is a multi-phase, bi-national initiative established by a 1986 Treaty between Maseru and Pretoria. It involves the construction of dams and water-transfer tunnels in the two neighbouring nations and the generation of hydro-electric power in Lesotho.

South Africa seeks to augment its water-supply for both domestic and industrial use through the project while Lesotho expects to benefit from infrastructure such as roads as well as royalties and electricity from the initiative.

Phase I of the LHWP, consisting of the Katse and Mohale dams, the ‘Muela hydropower station and associated tunnels was completed in 2003 and inaugurated in 2004. The long-delayed Phase II of the LHWP consists of two separate but related components: water transfer and hydropower generation.

The water transfer component of Phase II comprises an approximately 165m high concrete faced rock fill Dam at Polihali downstream of the confluence of the Khubelu and Senqu (Orange) Rivers and an approximately 38km long concrete-lined gravity tunnel connecting the Polihali reservoir to the Katse reservoir.

Other Phase II activities include advance infrastructure (roads, accommodation, power lines and telecommunication) and the implementation of environmental and social mitigating measures.

The LHDA is the implementing and management authority of the LHWP on behalf of the Lesotho government, while in South Africa, the project is governed by the Trans-Caledon Tunnel Authority.