Lesotho Highland Water Project, Its Contribution to South Africa.


In May, South Africa and the Kingdom of Lesotho had a breakthrough in a deal worth R42 billion which involved the construction of the Polihali Dam and transfer tunnel in Lesotho, as well as a bridge above the Senqu River.

This water project is the largest bi-national infrastructure project between Lesotho and South Africa which involves the construction of an intricate network of tunnels and dams to divert water from the mountains of Lesotho to South Africa. It will provide water for South Africa, while simultaneously profiting Lesotho by way of money and hydroelectricity. 

According to a report from Moneyweb, The project includes a 165-meter dam, a 38km water transfer tunnel, roads, bridges, telecommunications infrastructure, and a mini hydropower station that will benefit Lesotho.

With water challenges persisting in parts of the country, precisely Gauteng, the Department of Water and Sanitation Minister Senzo Mchunu recently engaged with his Lesotho counterpart, Minister Mohlomi Moleko, as part of the preparation of the Binational Commission that will take place later this week.

According to the Department of Water and Sanitation, the ministers received a progress report on issues pertaining to Phase 2 of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project.

The Lesotho Highlands Water Project is a partnership between South Africa and Lesotho dating back to a treaty agreed upon by the two governments to supply water to the Vaal River System, which ensures water security for Gauteng, Free State, Northern Cape, and North West provinces.

“The binational infrastructure project between the two countries involves the construction of a network of tunnels and dams to transfer water from the Orange-Senqu River in the Lesotho Highlands to South Africa, and to utilize the water delivery system to provide hydro-electric power to the Kingdom of Lesotho.

The project is being undertaken in phases, with phase one being completed in 2004 with the intention of supplying water from Lesotho to South Africa. The second phase of the project was projected to deliver water by January 2020

Once complete, the project is expected to deliver 490 million cubic meters per year to the Integrated Vaal River System,” the Department of Water and Sanitation explained. 

Due to the abundance of water resources that exceed requirements for possible future irrigation projects and development in Lesotho, they decided to supply water to South Africa. This was derived from the idea of the British High Commissioner to Lesotho, Sir Evelyn Baring who identified the LHWP as the most economical way of supplying water to South Africa.

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