A significant milestone has been achieved in the construction of Phase II of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP) with the double breakthrough of the two diversion tunnels on 16 August 2021.
The Lesotho Highlands Development Authority (LHDA), construction workers and representatives of the supervising engineers and the construction contractor celebrated the achievement, which marks the completion of 1870m of the tunnel excavation. The tunnels, one 7m in diameter, the other 9m in diameter and both almost a kilometer long, were excavated by both drill and blast method and achieved the breakthrough on the same day and at almost the same time.
Excavation inside the two Polihali diversion tunnels commenced in June 2020 and mostly advanced from the outlets. Completed works on the contract include excavation of the portals and the in-situ reinforced concrete lining of inside walls of the two tunnels for approximately 35m from the entrance of both tunnels. Ongoing works include finalization of construction of the concrete intake structure on the 9m diameter tunnel. Construction of the intake structure on the ancillary 7m diameter tunnel is almost complete. The remaining works include invert concrete lining for the overall lengths of the tunnels and some minor surface works.
MSKC-JV designed the tunnels and is leading the construction supervision. The Resident Engineer, Mr Ntsoeleng Mohale, said the breakthrough is a long-awaited event which marks the end of the critical stage of tunneling. “We are proud of the double breakthrough we are celebrated on Monday. It has been a long and challenging journey to get here but we made it thanks to the expertise and dedication of many people. For some of us this is one of the biggest milestones of our careers, while for the young professionals, the project has provided an invaluable experience in tunneling.”
Ntsoeleng is a product of the LHDA’s “on-the-job training” programme which jump started engineering careers for young professionals during the first phase of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project. Understanding the value of his own experience underpins his passion for mentoring the young engineers currently working on the diversion tunnels project under the LHWP Phase II Young Professionals Programme. “We have seen these young engineers move from training to performance level and I’m proud that they contributed immensely towards the breakthrough. The exposure and experience gained on this contract will increase their marketability in the job market.”
“I am grateful for the mentorship of a team of experts in various facets of project management and the unique tunneling construction experience I have gained. The LHDA young professionals’ mentorship programme is contributing to an innovative generation of engineers that have to come up with solutions to tackle the challenges facing society today,” Sechaba Mokhali, a young civil engineering technologist confirms.
The diversion tunnels will ensure that during construction of the Polihali Dam, work can take place in a dry area, uninterrupted by the river flow. The LHDA advanced the construction of these diversion tunnels to enable the dam contractor once appointed, to immediately focus on diverting the river through the tunnels instead of the traditional approach of incorporating the diversion tunnels works as part of the dam construction scope. As a result, the dam contractor will also have earlier access to the river section than normal. The tender for the dam construction contract at the project was launched earlier this month.