Implementing large scale infrastructure projects combines ‘maths and music’: the maths of delivering multiple highly technical engineering components within a specific timeframe and budget, and the music of the softer skills of diplomacy, communication, social, environmental and community protection, while considering the interests and expectations of multiple, diverse stakeholders. The Lesotho Highlands Water Project is no exception to this and while the project is behind the timelines proposed in the Feasibility Report, given the two-year deferred start, Phase II is stepping ahead purposefully.
2018 was a busy year for both the water transfer and hydropower components. The water transfer component took its first steps from the procurement and design phase into the design and construction phase, while notable progress was achieved on the hydropower component with the feasibility studies narrowing down its recommendations to three possible conventional hydropower sites.
January highlights included announcing the Polihali Tunnel design and construction supervision contract award, and the start of evaluation of the first of approximately 20 advanced infrastructure construction contracts. The tenders for the Polihali North East Access Road (PNEAR), Polihali civils and the Polihali diversion tunnels went out to market in the last quarter of 2017.
February drew a bumper number of Expressions of Interest from well qualified people keen to serve on the Phase II Dispute Resolution Board, testament to the industry’s interest in Phase II.
March highlights included the Record of Decision (RoD) issued by Lesotho’s Ministry of Tourism, Environment and Culture, granting environmental authorisation for the proposed Polihali Western Access Corridor (PWAC).The PWAC is the route along which the access road, bulk power supply and telecoms infrastructure will pass on the Western side of the Polihali Dam. It is an important component of the Phase II advance infrastructure.
April marked progress on the hydropower component with the further feasibility studies confirming that conventional hydropower is the most feasible option to meet Lesotho’s energy needs motivating the decision to advance the studies for two sites on the Senqu River and one at Oxbow to bankability.
May progress markers included the appointment of the Public Health Specialist and the advertising of the construction tenders for the Polihali Western Access Road (PWAR), the 33kv line from Tlokoeng to Polihali and the relocation of the 33kv line along the A1. The tenders closed in October.
June was a milestone month for the LHDA’s Young Professionals training programme with eight young professionals joining the dam design and project housing professional teams to get the kind of hands on mentorship that the skills transfer component of Phase II envisages. The five women and three men, who hail from Lesotho and South Africa, brought the number of interns gaining real work experience on Phase II through the YP programme to 12 by the middle of the year.
And, the tender for the construction of the 132kv HV transmission line from Matsoku to Polihali, went out to market.
July’s advance infrastructure construction progress included advertising the tender for the rehabilitation of the Northern Access Road from Pitseng to Katse, and the appointment of the public health nurse to support the Public Health Specialist.
In August, the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority embarked on a series of workshops across Lesotho to address local construction companies interested in participating in Phase II, the main purpose being to improve local companies’ compliance with tender requirements so as to increase their chances of participating.
Another milestone was the Lesotho Ministry of Tourism, Environment and Culture issuing the Record of Decision granting environmental authorisation for the Polihali dam, reservoir, transfer tunnel, major bridges and project housing, the major environmental approval for Phase II.
Other progress markers were the contract award for the design, supply and installation of the LHDA’s temporary site offices and accommodation units at Tlokoeng, one of several advance infrastructure contracts such as those for the feeder roads, resettlement housing, the construction of the Polihali Village and ancillary public service facilities that are vital to the project and present substantial opportunities for emerging enterprises.
The call for Expressions of Interest for specialists to serve on the Phase II Engineering Panel of Experts was advertised locally and internationally, again eliciting a good response and highlighting the prestige of the Project.
September saw the LHDA appoint the Safety, Health, Environment and Quality (SHEQ) auditors for the Phase II advance infrastructure. External auditing of all Phase II activities in terms of the Phase II SHEQ Management Framework reflects LHDA’s commitment to good governance, transparency and the ethical delivery of the project.
October’s milestones included the first construction contract award for the PNEAR, the appointment of the consultant to manage the Phase II Labour Recruitment Desk, and the design and construction supervision contract award for the Phase II major bridges.
As it did across Lesotho, the LHDA hosted the first two construction contractor workshops in in the Free State, the objective being to empower emerging contractors to take advantage of the opportunities Phase II presents.
November saw the LHDA host the final two construction contractor workshops in Johannesburg and Pretoria. Well supported, the workshops demonstrated the LHDA’s commitment to reaching the 50/50 share in the monetary value of the infrastructure works by Lesotho and South African firms. And, the LHDA awarded Contract 4018A for the advance infrastructure construction at Polihali and Katse. Construction is set to commence on 09 January 2019.
A major December highlight was the Lesotho Highlands Water Commission granting authorisation to proceed with the Polihali Dam and Polihali Transfer Tunnel construction contractor shortlisting, the first step in the procurement of construction contractors for the Phase II water transfer main works. Calls for Expressions of Interest are expected to be advertised in the press and on the LHDA website in January 2019.
In summary, more than 35 contracts were in force covering a range of environmental impact assessments, socio-economic and resettlement projects, hydropower feasibility, advance infrastructure projects encompassing access roads, project housing, power and telecommunications, geotechnical investigations and the Polihali diversion tunnel, and the main works i.e. the Polihali dam and transfer tunnel. Other than the geotechnical driller, demarcation survey and the first two advance infrastructure construction contract awards, these are all consulting services contracts.
The rollout of the livelihood restoration demonstration projects has commenced, and significant progress has been made on the resettlement planning programme. Construction of the advance infrastructure components which started in the last quarter will be largely completed before the start of the dam and tunnel in 2020.
Based on late 2018 projections, the completion of the dam is scheduled for 2025 with the tunnel expected to be completed in early 2026, enabling water transfer to be commissioned in 2026. Hydropower generation is also expected to be commissioned in 2026.