Preparatory works are underway for construction of the Polihali Commercial Centre, a project that is expected to enhance day-to-day access to goods and services in the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP) Phase II project area.

The Lesotho Highlands Development Authority (LHDA) awarded the contract for the construction of the centre valued at M11.3 million to Unik Construction Engineering in mid-January 2023.  Construction is expected to be completed by December 2023, along with the bulk of the Phase II advance infrastructure.

The plans for the centre include space for a supermarket, a clinic, police post and specialty retail stores, as well as the option to extend the centre to include a filling station at a later stage.  

The commercial centre is the only one of its kind in the area, the nearest village convenience store being approximately 15 to 20km away in the Mapholaneng area. It will provide valuable services to people working on the Phase II site and is expected to attract people from the neighbouring villages within the Malingoaneng area.

“The Commercial Centre construction contract completes procurement on the quartet of Phase II advance infrastructure Project housing construction tenders, purposely packaged to enhance the participation of small and medium-sized contractors in Phase II. Work on the other three construction contracts for the Polihali Village, upgrades to the Katse Lodge and Katse Village, and the Polihali Operations Centre is progressing well,” confirmed Ntsoli Maiketso, LHDA’s Phase II Divisional Manager.

Like the other Phase II Project housing buildings under construction, the commercial centre design prioritises sustainability, with energy efficiency being a particular focus. Amongst other architectural considerations, large windows allow natural light into the building while its north-facing orientation will minimize excessive heat loss in winter and heat gains in summer reducing heating and cooling requirements.

Polihali Infrastructure Consultants comprising the South African-based Mott MacDonald PDNA (Pty) Ltd and Khatleli Tomane Moteane Architects (Pty) Ltd of Lesotho was awarded the contract for the planning, design and construction supervision of the Project housing and associated infrastructure in 2015.

The LHWP delivers water to the Gauteng region of South Africa and utilises the water delivery system to generate hydroelectricity in Lesotho. Phase II adds 2,325 million cubic metres in storage capacity to the LHWP and will increase the current annual supply rate from 780 million cubic metres to 1,270, contributing towards meeting South Africa’s increasing water needs. The additional flow of water from Polihali will simultaneously increase power generation within Lesotho towards meeting Lesotho’s domestic needs and reducing the country’s dependence on electricity imports. Phase II will also include a hydropower scheme at Oxbow.

The main water transfer works, the Polihali Dam and Polihali Transfer Tunnel, were awarded at the end of 2022 and procurement for the design and construction supervision of the Oxbow Hydropower Scheme and its related social and environmental elements, also critical to Phase II, is currently underway.

Water transfer is expected to start in 2028 with commissioning of the Oxbow Hydropower Scheme expected to follow in 2029.

Phase II of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project builds on the successful completion of Phase I in 2003.