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Construction of Polihali Dam and Transfer Tunnel Set to Start

Polihali Dam and Transfer Tunnel Scheme

Two contracts by the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority (LHDA) have been awarded for building the Polihali dam and Polihali transfer tunnel. This award, two of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP) Phase II’s greatest to date, signals the beginning of the “final lap” of the water transfer infrastructure construction.

Works on the multi-billion Maloti contracts trigger in November and December respectively, with commissioning expected in 2028.

The LHDA CEO stated: “This is an exciting moment for the project and the LHDA. With our experience in successfully delivering large and complex infrastructure projects, we are confident that we will deliver quality engineering showpieces even as we carefully manage impacts on people and the environment.”

The SUN JV assured the M7.68-billion Polihali dam contract. The joint venture’s leading partners contain China’s Sinohydro Bureau 8 and Sinohydro Bureau 14, along with South African company Unik Civil Engineering and Lesotho company Nthane Brothers.

Subcontractors comprise South African companies Melki Civils and Plant Hire and Mecsa Construction, as well as Lesotho’s Sigma Construction and China’s Kunming Engineering.

The Matla a Metsi joint venture includes South Africa’s GIBB and MPAMOT Africa; France-headquartered Tractebel Engineering SA/Coyne et Bellier, and Lesotho-based LYMA Consulting Engineers, and is going to oversee the construction.

The Polihali dam is a concrete-faced rockfill dam, identical to the Mohale dam (built in Phase I of the LHWP), and will make a reservoir on the Senqu and Khubelu rivers with a surface area of 5 053 ha. In addition, the infrastructure contains a spillway, a compensation outlet structure and a mini-hydropower station.

Nevertheless, Kopana Ke Matla joint venture which comprises Chinese firms Yellow River Company and Sinohydro Bureau 3 and Unik Civil Engineering, will be responsible for building the M9.2-billion Polihali transfer tunnel.

Subcontractors of this contract are Nthane Brothers, South Africa’s Esor Construction and Mecsa Construction.

However, Metsi a Senqu-Khubelu Consultants joint venture which includes Lesotho-based FM Associates and South African firms Zutari South Africa, Hatch Africa, Knight Piesold and SMEC South Africa, will supervise the construction.

The Polihali transfer tunnel will move water by gravity from the Polihali reservoir to the Katse reservoir before being moved via the delivery tunnel to the Muela hydropower station built in Phase I, and then on to the Ash River outfall outside Clarens, in the Free State, on its way to Gauteng.

Moreover, the 38 km tunnel works comprise the intake works and gate shaft at the Polihali reservoir; outlet works and gate shaft at the current Katse reservoir, with an underwater link to the lake, pass adits to the waterway and related construction infrastructure.

The notice of award, containing other bidders and how they operated for both contracts, will be published by the LHDA on its website.

The awards were declared soon after the beginning of the procurement process for the design and construction supervision of the Oxbow Hydropower Scheme, also critical to Phase II, with March 2023 as the deadline for submitting bids for engineering, environmental and social consultants.

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