Boost for Lesotho’s mega water project

 Boost for Lesotho’s mega water project

Boost for Lesotho’s mega water project.

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MASERU, Lesotho – The second phase of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project II has received a timely boost after the African Development Bank (AfDB) this week approved a US$86, 72 million loan for the project.

Initially expected to have been finished in 2019, the R32 billion project was delayed by lack of funding. It is now expected to be finalised in the 2027/28 financial year.

The multi-phase project is meant to provide water to the Gauteng region of South Africa and generate hydroelectricity for Lesotho. The delay of its finalisation has sparked fears of looming crippling water shortages in South Africa in the near future.

The second phase of the project is currently underway with construction of advanced infrastructure now 30 percent complete; Polihali dam construction is at nine percent while the transfer tunnel construction is only two percent complete.

“The African Development Bank Group’s board of directors has approved a loan of US$86, 72 million to co-finance the second phase of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project,” a statement from the AfDB said this week.

The loan was secured by South Africa through its implementing agency, the Trans Caledon Tunnel Authority (TCTA). South Africa is expected to contribute US$1, 871 billion (about M28 billion) as well as a loan guarantee for the project.

“The Trans-Caledon Tunnel Authority, a state-owned entity in South Africa charged with financing and implementing bulk raw water infrastructure projects, will use the funds to construct the Polihali dam and reservoir, a 38-kilometre-long water transfer tunnel, roads and bridges, telecommunications infrastructure, and to extend electricity and other development infrastructure to Lesotho.”

Beth Dunford, the AfDB’s vice president for agriculture, human and social development said the LWHP deepens regional integration and will benefit over 26 million people from both Lesotho and South Africa.

“The two governments’ partnership on this project around the shared water resources from the Orange-Senqu River Basin serves the interests of their mutual development agenda and also deepens regional integration,” Dr Dunford said.

Once completed, the project is expected to boost transfer capacity between Lesotho and South Africa to 1260 million cubic metres per year, up from the current 780 million cubic metres per year, and enable additional generation of hydroelectric power in Lesotho.

Expected project benefits include greater water security in South Africa’s Gauteng region and a boost to Lesotho’s socio-economic development due to infrastructure improvements and increased hydropower capacity.

The AfDB said the project was expected to positively impact 26 million people in South Africa and boost a region that accounts for 60 percent of the country’s economic output.

“In Lesotho, the project will benefit more than 85 000 people in the project area and generate more than 6000 jobs over the next six years. Lesotho’s economy will also receive a boost from the royalty payments it will receive for water transfers.

“The project, with a total cost of US$2, 171 billion, is also receiving financing US$213, 68 million in loans from the Shanghai-based New Development Bank. The South African government will contribute US$1, 871 billion as well as a loan guarantee,” the AfDB said in a statement.

Silence Charumbira

Silence Charumbira is a journalist based in Maseru, Lesotho. He has vast experience having trained and worked in Harare for both state-owned and private media. He freelances for several international and regional papers among them The Guardian. View reputable reputation at The Guardian. He has interests in climate change reporting as well as illicit financial flows reporting with a thrust on how these phenomena affect people’s daily lives. He loves traveling, photography, reading, and writing.

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