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water relief from Lesotho for next 3 years
27 October 2016
The Lesotho Highlands Water Project says it has
capacity to deliver its agreed 780 million cubic
litres of water every year to South Africa for the
next three years even if it does not rain, and even
though implementation of Phase two has been delayed.
The Project allayed fears of El Nino impact as it
marks 30 years since the signing of the Lesotho
Highlands Project Treaty by Lesotho and SA on
October 24, 1986.
Way back in the 1950s Lesotho then known as
Basutoland was a British Protectorate, and the High
Commissioner or a representative of the Queen of
England was Sir Evelyn Baring.
He was the first person to commission a survey of
the territory because he thought it could have a
high altitude dam with a hydropower project and a
tunnel to transfer water to the mines in the Orange
At the time South Africa rejected the plan, until it
was hit by a drought in the 1960s.
In the 1970s the Department of Water sent experts to
take rock samples and map out the project, but it
didn't take off because of differences with the then
regime of Prime Minister Leabua Jonathan until 1978.
In 1983 agreement for a joint feasibility study was
reached and the study was completed in April 1986.
In the interim Prime Minister Jonathan was
overthrown by the military at the beginning of 1986.
On October 24, 1986, the Foreign Ministers of the
two countries, one a military Counsellor Colonel
Thaabe Letsie and another apartheid government
Minister Pik Botha signed the Lesotho Highlands
Water Project Treaty.
The Chief Executive of the Lesotho Highlands
Development Authority Refiloe Tlali says, I would
definitely say it has been realised, as we speak
since 1998 water has been delivered to South Africa
and citizens of Gauteng have been utilising that."
Tlali says, "Similarly, Lesotho has been enjoying
electricity being generated at Muela and Lesotho is
getting Royalties revenue on an annual basis."
There have been other developments which include
tourism in Lesotho and operations like the fisheries
in the Katse Dam. So far the Project has two Phases.
"Phase one comprises the Majestic Katse Dam standing
at 185m high, the Muela Hydropower Station that
generates 72MW of power for Lesotho, and the Mohale
at 145m high. Water from Mohale Dam goes into the
Katse Dam through a 32km tunnel, then another 45km
tunnel takes the water from Katse Dam the Muela
Hydropower station, and then into the Muela Dam and
onto the Ash River in SA to Gauteng 780million cubic
litres of water are transferred to SA every year as
agreed and this year Lesotho will receive R800
million in Royalties"
Tlali says in 2014 Phase two was launched to build
the Polihali dam in Mokhotlong.
It is expected to increase water transfer to
1,27billion cubic litres on completion but it has
not been without challenges.
A project of this magnitude and complexity, issues
have to be agreed beforehand and there will always
be challenges but as I speak now things are moving
much faster and more smoothly and yes I agree that
the project has been delayed but definitely by 2025
we believe very strongly that the water will be
delivered, says Tlali.
For now the project says it has enough water to meet
its agreed annual supply for three years even if it
does not rain.
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