Water project to create jobs for construction workers

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MASERU — The second phase of the multi-billion dollar Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP) will create more than a thousand jobs during the construction phase, the Lesotho Times heard last week.

A senior representative for the LHWP, Leon Tromp, told a business forum for Lesotho and South African businesses last Friday that phase two of the project will commence in January.

The second phase will see the LHWP design access roads to the new Polihali Dam in Mokhotlong district in the northern highlands of Lesotho.

The forum was called to look at bilateral opportunities that businesses in the two countries could explore.

The dam when finished will see Lesotho exporting more water to its giant neighbour as well as generating more electricity to meet its domestic needs.

The dam will have a capacity of 165 million cubic metres.

Katse Dam, which is the biggest inland dam in Lesotho, has a capacity of 1.95 billion cubic metres.

Tromp said they will use local people in the construction project as much as possible due to their “familiarity with the surroundings as well as the as the understanding of the language and culture of the people who will be affected by the dam”.

“The direct impact to Lesotho during the construction is about 4 000 jobs. We expect that about 100 permanent jobs will be created once the project is completed,” Tromp said.

“We are going to use the local people as much as possible. If there are no relevant skills locally then we will look at South Africa.”

He added that they will only look for overseas services as a last resort.

Tromp said while the design of the access roads to the construction site will begin in January the actual construction of the roads will only kick off in February 2014.

The building of roads is expected to take 22 months up to December 2015.

The total cost of engineering services has been budgeted at M1.04 billion inclusive of all services for the design and other engineering services.

He said the total cost for the construction project has been put at M9.03 billion.

The building of the dam and tunnel is scheduled to begin in January 2016 and is expected to run until March 2020.

South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma, who visited Lesotho last week, signed a declaration of intent on phase two of the LHWP.

The government of South Africa is providing the bulk of funds for the construction of Polihali Dam.

It will fund the building of the dam, tunnel, roads as well as cater for the social and environmental aspects.

The new dam is expected to provide water to South Africa’s Gauteng province which is the country’s economic heartland.

Last year Lesotho received M333 million in royalties from water sales.

“The amount that Lesotho receives is adjusted according to the rate of inflation every time to ensure that the benefits to Lesotho are consistent as we move forward,” said LHWP financial controller Piet Swart.

Swart said they had put in place internal mechanisms to detect fraudulent and corrupt practices at an early stage to increase accountability.

Former chief executive of the LHWP, Masupha Sole, was in 2002 found guilty of accepting a US$6 million bribe from international firms.

He was slapped with a 15-year jail term.

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