Lesotho highlands phase two project

/sites/default/files/pictures/Josias.Pila.jpgBy Josias Pila

In February 2023, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that construction work on the Lesotho Highlands Phase Two project would commence. Three months later Phase 2 of the project was launched as promised. This project is aimed at ensuring security of water supply to Gauteng, Free State, Mpumalanga, North West and the Northern Cape.  

This project is a good example of public-private collaboration to ensure water security in the country. It comprises a 38-kilometre, concrete-lined gravity tunnel connecting the Polihali reservoir to the Katse reservoir and a 165-metre high concrete faced rockfill dam. Once completed, it is expected to provide more than 400 million cubic meters of water every year to the Vaal Dam.

This project will require R40 billion to be completed and the money will be raised in South Africa’s financial markets by the Trans Caledon Tunnel Authority. This partnership between the countries dates back many years and will benefit both countries. Lesotho will benefit by collecting royalties and jobs have also been created for local people in Lesotho.

The Lesotho Highlands Phase Two project is the biggest water infrastructure investment outside our borders in which South Africa is involved. It also forms part of government programmes aimed at sustainable water development and ensuring that everyone has access to water as enshrined in the Constitution.

All of these investments by government are aimed at ensuring that we have enough water supply in the country. South Africa is a water scarce country and most of our water comes from rainfall therefore we are susceptible to sustained droughts or climate change. It is against this background that the water infrastructure is being improved to address the issue of water scarcity before 2025.

For the 2023/24 financial year, over R14 billion has been set aside for municipalities to address water infrastructure backlogs. About R10.1 billion of this money has been made available through the Regional Bulk Infrastructure Grant (RBIG), while R4.6 billion has been made available through the Water Services Infrastructure Grant (WSIG). The WSIG will be spent on 400 different projects and RBIG on 130 projects around the country.

There are also many other major projects that are currently underway across the country and are being monitored by the Department of Water and Sanitation. These include the development of the R393 million James Kleynhans Water Treatment Works in the Makana Municipality, R450 million Greater Mbizana Regional Bulk Water Scheme in the Alfred Nzo District Municipality, and R506 million Ngqamakhwe Regional Water Supply Scheme in the Amatole District Municipality.

The Maluti-a-Phofung Local Municipality in the Free State has also been given R130 million and is being assisted with a number of water related projects. Other water infrastructure projects that are still in the pipeline include the construction of Umzimvubu Water Project. This project will result in the construction of Ntabelanga, Laleni and Mbokazi dams and will lead to improved provision of water supply to many rural parts of the country.

As we continue to work with provinces and municipalities to avert a severe water crisis in the country, we call on everyone in the country to use water wisely and sparingly. It is important that communities and businesses play their part and take the necessary efforts to preserve water.

We should also guard against vandalism and damage of infrastructure in the country. Communities must report those who damage infrastructure and connect water illegally so we can root out criminality.

 As the country, we need to inculcate the culture of water conservation. By conserving and caring for what we have, we can improve access to water for everyone in the country.