LHDA awards M123 million bridges tender

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Herbert Moyo

THE Lesotho Highlands Development Authority (LHDA) has awarded Aurecon Lesotho (Pty) Ltd a M123 million contract to design and supervise the construction of the major bridges under Phase II of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP).

The major bridges project also includes the realignment of the A1 national road in the vicinity of the bridges.

The LHWP is a multi-phase, bi-national initiative established by a 1986 Treaty between Maseru and Pretoria. It involves the construction of dams and water-transfer tunnels in the two neighbouring nations and the generation of hydro-electric power in Lesotho.

South Africa seeks to augment its water-supply for both domestic and industrial use through the project while Lesotho expects to benefit from infrastructure such as roads as well as royalties and electricity from the initiative.

Phase I of the LHWP, consisting of the Katse and Mohale dams, the ‘Muela hydropower station and associated tunnels was completed in 2003 and inaugurated in 2004. Phase II of the LHWP is currently in progress. It consists of two separate but related components: water transfer and hydropower generation.

The bilateral project which is estimated to cost at least M23 billion, is expected to provide about 3000 jobs at the peak of its operations.

The water transfer component of Phase II comprises an approximately 165m high concrete faced rock fill Dam at Polihali downstream of the confluence of the Khubelu and Senqu (Orange) Rivers and an approximately 38km long concrete-lined gravity tunnel connecting the Polihali reservoir to the Katse reservoir.

Other Phase II activities include advance infrastructure (roads, accommodation, power lines and telecommunication) and the implementation of environmental and social mitigating measures.

The hydropower component of Phase II, which is currently under further feasibility studies, may include a pumped storage scheme, conventional hydropower such as the expansion of the ‘Muela infrastructure or new greenfield sites.

Its exact form will be determined on completion of the further feasibility studies. Phase II is expected to be substantially complete by the end of 2024.

The LHDA is the implementing and management authority of the LHWP on behalf of Lesotho, while in South Africa, the project is governed by the Trans-Caledon Tunnel Authority.

In a statement to the Lesotho Times this week, the LHDA chief executive officer, Refiloe Tlali, said the M123 million contract was awarded to Aurecon Lesotho on 5 November and the construction of the bridges is expected to be completed in early 2024.

“The LHDA has appointed Aurecon Lesotho (Pty) Ltd to design and supervise the construction of the major bridges to be built in Phase II of the LHWP. The major bridges project also includes the realignment of the A1 national road in the vicinity of the bridges. Lesotho-based White Life Consultants (Pty) Ltd and Leporogo Specialist Engineers CC of South Africa are sub-consultants,” Ms Tlali said this week.

“Each of these (contract awards) are another step on our journey to deliver Phase II of the LHWP on behalf of the governments of Lesotho and South Africa and to advancing the economies of our two countries.

“Three major bridges spanning the Polihali reservoir — the Senqu, Mabunyaneng and Khubelu bridges — will be constructed on the existing A1 national road between Oxbow in the Butha-Buthe district and Mokhotlong in the mountainous north-east of Lesotho where the Polihali Dam and Polihali Water Transfer Tunnel, the major works of Phase II, will be constructed. The bridges will restore the A1 access that will be lost as a result of the reservoir inundation.

“Constructed at high altitude in mountainous terrain across a deep steep valley, the Senqu Bridge is expected to be over 100 metres tall and almost 600 metres long.  It is the largest of the major bridges.  The other two will be smaller with an approximate height of 20 metres and lengths of 45 and 150 metres.

“The bridges will be required when inundation of the reservoir starts just after the completion of the Phase II major works.  Water transfer to South Africa is expected to commence in 2026,” Ms Tlali further said.

Information on the Aurecon Lesotho website shows that the company has been involved in other civil engineering projects that include the construction of the Mohlapiso Bridge over the Senqu River in the Qacha’s Nek district.

The company has also been involved in the construction of the Mokhotlong to Sani Pass Road.

The award of the tender to Aurecon Lesotho follows the recent award of another M394 million tender to the WBHO-LSP joint venture for the construction of advance infrastructure.

The WBHO-LSP joint venture comprises of WBHO, a South Africa and LSP Construction (Pty) Ltd, a Lesotho-registered company.

The advance infrastructure includes earthworks and the creation of platforms for buildings, water and wastewater systems, landfill, roads, drainage, electrical and telecommunications networks.

The LHDA said it expects the construction of advance infrastructure to commence on the 9th of January 2019.

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