South Africa, Lesotho water project - phase II to be completed by 2023

30 June 2014

The Lesotho Highlands Development Authority expects the SAR 11.2bn (USD 2.99bn) second phase of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project to be completed by 2023, the project's executive manager, Mark Matchett, announced on 23 June, according to South African Government News Agency (

The massive joint project between South Africa and land-locked Lesotho will generate hydro-electric power for Lesotho while increasing the volume of water transferred to South Africa from the current 10 billion to about 15 billion cubic metres a year.

The first phase of the project - comprising a series of dams, hydropower stations and tunnels between South Africa and mountainous, landlocked Lesotho - was funded by the World Bank and completed in 2004.

The second phase will involve building the Polihali Dam in the Mokhotlong district, which is located in the northeastern part of Lesotho and includes both the highest terrain in the Maloti mountain range and the source of the Senqu River, Lesotho's primary watershed.

A new tunnel will also be built from Polihali Dam to Katse Dam, along with new hydropower features and other advanced infrastructure.

Speaking at a briefing session in Johannesburg, Matchett said: "We are about to embark on a procurement process. This will run for a fairly intensive six- to nine-month period, and during this time we hope to have procured most of the design contracts. Towards the middle to the end of next year, we hope to be in a position to start procuring contracts for the construction works."

He said design work on the dam and the tunnel is expected to start during the first or second quarter of next year, while construction is expected to commence during the third or fourth quarter.

Matchett said the new dam could reach its minimum operating level by 2022, if there were sufficient rain, and "if all goes well ... we are looking at completion by the year 2023."

Work on environmental studies, mitigation plans, resettlements and compensations has already begun and should be complete by the end of October or November.

Matchett said 2,500 workers are expected in the area at the height of the project. A township would be established and an existing lodge developed to meet the accommodation demand.