LHWP project in full flow

Lesotho Times - - Business - Staff Re­porters

BAR­RING any un­fore­seen chal­lenges, the con­struc­tion of the multi-bil­lion mal­oti sec­ond phase of the Le­sotho High­lands Wa­ter Project (LHWP) is on course for com­ple­tion by 2024 to aug­ment wa­ter sup­plies into South Africa while boost­ing elec­tric­ity gen­er­a­tion for Le­sotho.

The se­nior man­age­ment of the Le­sotho High­lands Devel­op­ment Author­ity (LHDA), the body re­spon­si­ble for im­ple­ment­ing the LHWP, led by Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Re­filoe Tlali, met with Le­sotho’s se­nior me­dia man­agers at the week­end for an up­date on the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the mas­sive project and to clar­ify var­i­ous is­sues sur­round­ing it.

Also present were Chief Op­er­a­tions Of­fi­cer Doc­tor Lukhele, Di­vi­sional Manager (devel­op­ment and op­er­a­tions) Reentseng Mo­lapo, Di­vi­sional Manager Phase 11 Tente Tente, Di­vi­sional Manager So­cial Devel­op­ment and En­vi­ron­ment Ma­hase Thokoa and public re­la­tions manager Masilo Phakoe.

Ms Tlali and her team spoke com­pre­hen­sively about the im­mense benefits of the project for Ba­sotho dur­ing and af­ter im­ple­men­ta­tion. This af­ter the me­dia man­agers sought ex­pla­na­tion on how the project would ben­e­fit Ba­sotho through­out all its phases. Apart from the main in­fra­struc­ture works, from which Ba­sotho could com­pete for con­sul­tancy and con­struc­tion con­tracts, there were many other an­cil­lary projects that could ben­e­fit cit­i­zens like tourism, aqua­cul­ture, ir­ri­ga­tion, por­ta­ble wa­ter, among oth­ers.

To il­lus­trate the benefits of the project, phase one of the LHWP was rak­ing in an av­er­age of M50 mil­lion monthly from the 780 mil­lion cu­bic me­tres flow­ing into South Africa an­nu­ally. The wa­ter vol­umes will in­crease to 1260 cu­bic me­tres an­nu­ally upon com­ple­tion of phase two.

Th­ese roy­al­ties have steadily in­creased from an av­er­age M5 mil­lion in early 1997 to their cur­rent lev­els of about M50 mil­lion monthly. So far, about M5,9 bil­lion has been col­lected from the wa­ter roy­al­ties from the be­gin­ning of the project up to now, Mr Mo­lapo ex­plained.

The roy­al­ties are cal­cu­lated on the ba­sis of the to­tal cost sav­ings that South Africa has been able to ac­crue by lo­cat­ing the project to Le­sotho. Ini­tial fea­si­bil­ity stud­ies done in the early 1980s proved that it was pos­si­ble to lo­cate the wa­ter project within South Africa it­self by build­ing the in­fra­struc­ture to in­ter­cept wa­ter from Senqu River for on-ward­ing pump­ing into the Vaal Dam, the main sup­ply­ing chan­nel for Gaut­eng Prov­ince.

How­ever this op­tion would have been mas­sively ex­pen­sive for South Africa cost­ing about M3,5 bil­lion by 1983 prices. Lo­cat­ing the project in Le­sotho would nonethe­less have cost only M1,6 bil­lion re­sult­ing in sav­ings of about M1,8 bil­lion at that time.

Le­sotho is thus paid fixed roy­al­ties on the ba­sis of the ac­tual cost sav­ings (with es­ca­la­tions) ob­tained by South Africa by re­lo­cat­ing the project into this King­dom as well as on the ba­sis of a vari­able com­po­nent, con­sist­ing of the ac­tual amount of wa­ter de­liv­ered into South Africa monthly. The fixed com­po­nent of the roy­al­ties ex­pires in 2044 while the vari­able com­po­nent for the ac­tual wa­ter de­liv­ered will con­tinue in­def­i­nitely.

Lo­cat­ing the project into Le­sotho en­abled South Africa to achieve mas­sive cost sav­ings, es­pe­cially on the elec­tric­ity costs that would have been re­quired to pump the wa­ter into the Vaal from where the dams would have been built in South Africa. In Le­sotho, the wa­ter flows into South Africa by grav­ity through a com­plex tun­nel sys­tem that has been hailed world­wide as an out­stand­ing en­gi­neer­ing achieve­ment and has won the LHDA more than 20 in­ter­na­tional en­gi­neer­ing awards.

The cur­rent fluc­tu­a­tions in the roy­al­ties are based on the vari­a­tions of quan­ti­ties of the wa­ter de­liv­ered to South Africa, Mr Mo­lapo ex­plained. In win­ter, more wa­ter is de­liv­ered into South Africa via the tun­nels to en­able more power gen­er­a­tion ca­pac­ity for Le­sotho at Muela hy­dro power sta­tion be­cause of the high de­mand of power in win­ter. The vol­umes of wa­ter de­liv­ered in sum­mer re­duces re­sult­ing in lesser roy­al­ties.

Con­struc­tion of the wa­ter trans­fer com­po­nent of phase two in­clud­ing the build­ing of the Poli­hali Dam and the trans­fer tun­nels to Katse Dam en route to South Africa is ex­pected to cost M17 bil­lion. Es­ti­mates for the con­struc­tion of the hy­dropower com­po­nent of the project to gen­er­ate elec­tric­ity for Le­sotho will be es­tab­lished once on­go­ing stud­ies around that com­po­nent of the project are com­pleted. But the hy­dro power com­po­nent will also in­evitably cost sev­eral bil­lions, said Mr Phakoe.

Ms Tlali ex­plained that South Africa was wholly fi­nanc­ing the wa­ter trans­fer com­po­nent of the project, com­pris­ing of the build­ing of the Poli­hali Dam and the de­liv­ery tun­nels, while Le­sotho will wholly fund the hy­dro-power com­po­nent.

LHDA CEO Re­filoe Tlali.

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