Lesotho: A sleeping giant
The majestic Katse Dam is a deserted place
satisfy demand from the 10% (more than 200 000) of its citizens who have access to the national grid, and export the surplus to South Africa. Before the project, Lesotho imported all its electricity from South Africa.
Set in the highlands and made up of the Katse, Mohale and ’Muela dams and the underground ’Muela Hydropower station, the LHWP is a tourism giant waiting to waken. The kingdom’s tourism development authorities are slowly beginning to realise the potential of the Highlands and the country as a whole. Despite boasting world-class roads and unrivalled beauty, tourism still contributes less than 3% of GDP, up from 1,3% in 1998. The roads DESPITE THE LESOTHO nation’s attempts at diversifying its economy and reducing its reliance on water, the Lesotho Highlands Water Project’s (LHWP) contribution to the economy has been growing steadily since 1998 to the current 10,7% of gross domestic product (GDP). The project generates R263m a year in royalties for water fed to South Africa. In addition to that, it has helped Lesotho generate its own electricity, of which it’s now a net exporter.
Since 1998 at the completion of Phase I of the LHWP – which was the biggest infrastructure building exercise in Africa – Lesotho generates a healthy 80MW through an underground hydropower station at ’Muela dam, enough to were constructed and paid for by South Africa as part of the dam building exercise that started in 1986. The dams have supplied more than 6bn cubic metres of water to Gauteng and other regions since 1998, earning Lesotho a combined R2bn in royalties by financial 2005/6 – the single biggest export product, making up 23,5% of the export basket. The water gravitates down to SA through an underground delivery tunnel into the Ash River, operated and managed by the Trans-Caledon Tunnel Authority.
The Lesotho Tourism Development Corporation (LTDC) has set itself targets to increase tourism’s contribution to GDP to 4,5% by 2008 from the current 2,7%. But to get there, the LTDC will have to learn basic things like maintenance and investing money to make money. The beautiful Katse Lodge overlooking the majestic Katse dam is slowly degenerating into a state of disrepair, with some door handles and toilet washers broken. The lodge was handed to the Lesotho government after the construction of the dam, during which it accommodated construction workers. On a warm summer weekend, other than a group of journalists from South Africa, the only tourists to be seen in the lodge were six members of a bikers’ club, also from South Africa. There’s simply no activity in the dam. No fishing. No boat rides despite the dam having a surface area of 38,5sq km. Except for the occasional herdsman trying his hand at fishing, the place is deserted. A woman on the side of the road flashes a big trout to passing motorists, testament to the dam’s nascent potential.
Mantshantsha visited Lesotho courtesy of the TCTA