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Southern Africa: The second phase of a massive water transfer project is launched

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South Africa and Lesotho ceremonially launched their biggest joint infrastructure investment project on March 27th.

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Work on the Rand 14 bn ($1.3 bn) second phase of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project is expected get underway in April with the construction of a 155-metre high Polihali Dam and tunnels.

South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma called it a “win-win” project, as impoverished Lesotho will secure revenue while South Africa gets water.

Launched in 1998, the project provides South Africa with the scarce resource, while contributing to the economic growth of the tiny mountainous kingdom, known for its large water reserves.

The project situated in the northern part of the country is expected to be fully operational in 2022.

Lesotho has benefited from significant infrastructure development since the inception of the scheme, including road linkages and upgrades.

The landlocked country, entirely surrounded by South Africa, also generates hydro-power from the large dams built so far.

The first phase of the project supplies South Africa with about 10 bn cubic metres of water a year, and the amount will increase to 17m cubic metres with the completion of the second phase, according to the South African Water and Environmental Affairs department.

“This is a good opportunity for the people of Lesotho and South Africa, not only will many people get jobs but our relationship as countries continue to be strengthened through projects such as these,” said Zuma.

South Africa is a water-scarce country, and supply has in recent years come under pressure from population growth and industrial activity.

At the launch, Zuma said the new Polihali Dam will go a long way in alleviating the strain.

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