Lesotho, South Africa Launches Highlands Water Project.


After years of delays, the governments of South Africa and Lesotho officially launched the second phase of the Lesotho Highlands Water project with the construction of the Polihali Dam well underway and transfer tunnel.


The launch represents the close ties between the two nations and is an important step toward enhancing water and energy security for Basotho and South Africans. However, residents of Modingoaneng in Mokhotlong, where construction is taking place, are not celebrating as they may be forced to move from the area.


The first phase of the project was completed in 2003. The ongoing phase 2 is a water transfer component that comprises a 165-meter-high concrete-faced rock-fill dam at Polihali, downstream of the confluence of the Khubelu and Senqu (Orange) Rivers. The project’s total cost is estimated at R39 billion and is aimed at alleviating South Africa’s water constraints.


President Cyril Ramaphosa states, “The Lesotho Highlands Water Project is more than just a water project. It is a beacon of hope, a symbol of progress and international cooperation, and a testament to the strength of the bilateral relationship between the Kingdom of Lesotho and South Africa”.


This development will also feature a 38-kilometer, concrete-lined gravity tunnel connecting the Polihali reservoir to the Katse reservoir. Ramaphosa said most of the approximately R40 billion funds required for the project will be raised in South Africa’s financial markets.


The Integrated Vaal River System, which provides water to Gauteng and the surrounding areas, is strengthened by the water South Africa receives from Lesotho. Ramaphosa noted that more than 400 million cubic meters of water will annually flow from the higher levels of the Senqu River in Lesotho through the current conveyance system to the Vaal Dam in South Africa.


Lesotho is earmarked to receive over 90 megawatts of power through a hydroelectric plant that will be built as part of the project. Both phases one and two include the construction of hydropower facilities to provide electricity for Lesotho.


Phase two of the project is projected to be completed in 2028 when South Africans will utilize the facility. It is expected to pump over 1,200 million cubic meters of water a year to Gauteng.

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