The Lesotho Highlands Development Authority (LHDA) has awarded a M511 500 000 contract to the Concor-Nthane Brothers M&K Bridges Joint Venture, for the construction of two bridges under Phase Two of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project Phase.
The contract is effective from 29 August and the two bridges across the Mabunyaneng and Khubelu rivers are expected to be completed towards the end of October 2025.
The LHDA made the announcement through a press statement issued on Tuesday this week, adding the joint venture is comprised of South Africa’s Concor Construction (Pty) Ltd and Lesotho’s Nthane Brothers (Pty) Ltd. The venture also has sub-contractors, South African Post Tensioning and Structural Solutions (Pty) Ltd, as well as Bridge Joints and Rehabilitation Contractors (Pty) Ltd of Lesotho.
“The construction contract of the biggest of the trio of bridges – the Senqu Bridge – was awarded in late 2022. At the Senqu Bridge site, construction of temporary site facilities is well progressed, and excavations have started for the massive pier and abutment foundations necessary to support the 825metre long and 90m high bridge,” the statement said.
The statement further indicated that upon completion, the three major bridges will provide access to Mokhotlong town across the reservoir even at full supply and retain connectivity to the national road network along the A1, the main road between the Mokhotlong district in the mountainous north-east of the country and the capital, Maseru.
LHDA Polihali Branch Manager Gerald Mokone said the impounding of the Polihali reservoir will submerge existing roads and tracks, affecting communities in the valleys and tributary catchments of the Senqu, Khubelu, Mokhotlong, Moremoholo and Sehonghong rivers.
“The major bridges, along with a network of feeder roads and the main access roads to the Project area, all contribute towards minimising this disruption and help to restore access across Polihali community access to healthcare facilities, schools, shops and markets,” Mr Mokone said.
Phase II Divisional Manager, Ntsoli Maiketso, stated that the design of the Khubelu and Mabunyaneng bridges considered the challenging high altitude construction conditions and the Mokhotlong highlands’ long, cold, and harsh winter conditions.
The LHDA, Mr Maiketso added, will also prioritise the health and safety of workers on the bridge construction. The Khubelu Bridge will be approximately 270 metres long with nine 30m spans and two abutments. Mabunyaneng Bridge, the smallest of the three major bridges, will be approximately 120m in length and have four 30m spans and two abutments.
The bridges will both be 13.55 metres wide.
“The trio of bridges will not only form part of the safe and efficient road infrastructure network constructed under Phase II but will be a major tourist attraction contributing to long-term benefits in stimulating sustainable economic growth,” Mr Maiketso said.
The design of the Mabunyaneng and Khubelu bridges started in 2018, led by Zutari, formerly Aurecon Lesotho. Zutari also designed the Senqu Bridge and is supervising the construction of the three bridges. Phase II of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project entails the construction of Polihali Dam, the 38km Polihali Transfer Tunnel, the associated infrastructure and a hydropower scheme at Oxbow. It builds on the successful completion of Phase I in 2003.
Phase II will increase the current supply rate of 780 million cubic metres annually incrementally to more than 1 270 million cubic metres, to neighbouring South Africa.
Phase II also will increase the quantity of electricity generated in Lesotho to meet domestic requirements, and reduce the country’s dependence on imported energy.
Lesotho’s 72MW Muela Hydropower Plant has only supplied 60 percent of the country’s energy needs over the years, necessitating imports of the remaining 40 percent from non-renewable, coal-fired sources in South Africa and Mozambique.