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Following several advances in 2023, LHWP Phase II moves into final construction phase

Image of Senqu bridge

CONNECTIONS Construction of the Senqu bridge kicked off in late 2022 and is expected to be completed in 2026

26th January 2024

By: Natasha Odendaal

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor


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The Lesotho Highlands Development Authority (LHDA) has made much progress on Phase II of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP) after a milestone year.

During 2023, the project marked many milestones, including the start of the water transfer main works and final steps on advance infrastructure, and is now heading into 2024 with a new programme management unit (PMU) to take the project to completion.

This brings the ambitions of increased water supply to South Africa one step closer.

“We are confident that the project will continue to progress steadily as we move into the final construction phase,” says LHDA CEO Tente Tente.

Following the award of key construction tenders at the end of 2022, early 2023 marked the start of site establishment activity at the Polihali dam and transfer tunnel sites, confirming that the Phase II water transfer main works had moved into the final and most critical construction stage.

Several advance infrastructure construction programmes, including bulk power and telecommunications infrastructure, housing, diversion tunnels, roads, the Katse Lodge upgrade, the operations centre and the commercial centre, have been completed or are nearing completion.

This followed the formal sod-turning ceremony, in May, at Malingoaneng, Mokhotlong, for the water transfer main works and the Senqu bridge.

Among the early milestones for the dam and tunnel construction was the diversion of the Senqu river by the pre-cofferdam, and the subsequent diversion of the river into and through the diversion tunnels ahead of the construction of the cofferdam upstream of the Polihali dam wall in early August.

Both the upstream and downstream cofferdams are expected to be completed this month, while the excavations of the main dam and intake structure have started.

Another milestone was passed in September, when the first blast was undertaken to make way for excavation works at the tunnel boring machine access adit.

Meanwhile, three major bridges are being built along the Maseru to Mokhotlong A1 road at the Mabunyane, Khubelu and Senqu rivers.

Construction of the Senqu bridge kicked off in late 2022 and is expected to be completed in 2026, while construction of the other two bridges started in August 2023 following the construction tender award to the Concor-Nthane Brothers M&K Bridges joint venture (JV).

The three major bridges will provide access to Mokhotlong town across the reservoir even at full supply and retain connectivity to the national road network along the A1, the main road between the Mokhotlong district in the mountainous north-east of the country and Maseru.

According to the LHDA, the major bridges programme is complemented by the construction of four pedestrian bridges and six vehicle bridges under the feeder roads and bridges programme to maintain access and ensure mobility for communities across and around the reservoir area.

The feeder roads and bridges programme is currently under procurement, with the tender having been launched in November 2023.

The access roads programme, comprising the Polihali North East access road, the Polihali Western access road and the Northern access road, is nearing completion.

The construction of both the Polihali village and the operations centre, which comprises an office building, exhibition hall, conference facilities and visitors information centre, is complete, while the commercial centre and upgrades to Katse Lodge are under way.

The construction tender for the commercial centre was awarded to Unik Construction Engineering in mid-January 2023.

Meanwhile, procurement for the hydropower component, including the hydropower engineering, environmental and social Impact assessment and the resettlement action planning studies for the Oxbow Hydropower Scheme, is under way.

Power generation at the Oxbow Hydropower Scheme, the hydropower component of Phase II, is expected to start in 2029.

Oxbow’s 80 MW capacity will add to the ‘Muela hydropower plant’s installed capacity of 72 MW.

“With much more construction activity on the ground, the physical progress of the project in 2023 is clear. This under the stewardship of a newly appointed Pula Nala JV Phase II PMU, confirmed by the LHDA, to manage the final lap of Phase II construction,” says Tente.

On December 15, the LHDA announced the appointment of the Pula Nala JV as the PMU to manage the final lap of Phase II’s construction.

After a transition period spanning several months during which the Pula Nala team worked alongside the outgoing PMU CDM Smith, the Pula Nala JV took the helm on June 1, 2023.

The Pula Nala JV combines South African, Basotho and international companies, in keeping with the tenets of the Phase II Agreement.

The main JV partners are Mariswe (South Africa), JB Barry and Partners (Ireland) and Royal HaskoningDHV (South Africa).

Subconsultants include ARQ Dams (South Africa), Mafube Consulting (Lesotho), NHA Group (Lesotho) and ABK Consulting Engineering (Lesotho) and CAPIC (South Africa).

“The PMU is a specialist unit within the LHDA. It is a multidisciplinary JV with extensive expertise in the management of large water transfer and hydropower schemes appointed to oversee Phase II through to completion,” explains Phase II divisional manager Nt’soli Maiketso.

“Many of the key engineering, environmental and social and project management discipline leads within the PMU have been retained to ensure seamless transition under the new structure. We are confident that the project will continue to progress steadily as we move into the final construction phase.”

Edited by Martin Zhuwakinyu
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor



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