Lesotho appoints experts, calls prequalifications 24 Jan 2019

Shani Wallis, TunnelTalk

After a two-year deferred start, Phase II of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project in Southern Africa has made a positive start to 2019 with appointment of the engineering panel of experts and invitation to prequalify for design-build contracts associated with building a concrete faced rockfill dam at Polihali and a tunnel to connect the reservoir to the Katse Dam reservoir created under Phase IA of the project (Fig 1).

Elements of Phases I and II of the bi-national project
Elements of Phases I and II of the bi-national project

The call for expressions of interest for the construction of the 165m high Polihali Dam and the 38km long transfer tunnel is expected to attract the attention of major international engineering and construction companies, and prequalification documents will include requirements for participation by Lesotho- and South Africa-national contractors. Pre-qualification documents are available at no cost from the Phase II project website and sealed applications must be submitted on or before 26 March 2019. A mandatory application meeting will be held on 29 January 2019 at 2pm Lesotho time at the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority offices in Maseru.

In the meantime, proposals from two groups for the Polihali dam diversion tunnels contract, as part of early project works, revealed a bid from the Sinohydro SA/Nthane Brothers JV presenting of Maluti 227.6 million and a bid of more than double from the Salini Impregilo/CMC di Ravenna/LSP Construction Ltd/CMI Infrastructure Ltd JV at Maluti 517 million. Construction of the hydropower component of Phase II is subject to further feasibility study or three locations - two on the Senqu River and one at Oxbow – which are advancing and are expected to be completed by the second quarter of 2019. A pumped storage scheme option for the hydro component has been deferred due to the current prevailing economic conditions.

Following confirmation of members in December 2018, the first mission of the eight-member engineering panel this month (January 2019) was a site visit to the project area in the Mokhotlong district of Lesotho. The panel includes members from the United Kingdom, Europe, the United States, Canada and Australia and their expertise covers experience in tunnelling, geotechnical engineering, grouting, construction of concrete faced rockfill dams and hydro-mechanical installations.

The members are John Sharp, Dean Brox, David Powell, David Lees, Clemente Curnis, Ian Firth, Brian Sadden and Palmi Johannesson.

“The appointment of an external expert panel is to provide technical reviews of the major works and ensure implementation to the highest quality and internationally recognised standards to minimise the risk of engineering errors,” said Tente Tente, LHDA Phase II Divisional Manager. At the start of the first joint mission visit, the panel was introduced to the scope of the project, met with LHDA Chief Executive Mrs Refiloe Tlali and members of the Lesotho Highlands Water Commission, and made a visit to Katse Dam, the central element of the entire bi-national water delivery project and treaty between Lesotho and South Africa that was constructed as Phase 1A in the 1990s.

Panel of engineering experts at Katse Dam (from left) John Sharp, Dean Brox, Clemente Curnis, David Lees, Ian Firth, Brian Sadden, David Powell (Palmi Johannesson absent)
Panel of engineering experts on visit to Katse Dam
From left: John Sharp, Dean Brox, Clemente Curnis, David Lees,
Ian Firth, Brian Sadden, David Powell (Palmi Johannesson absent)

LHDA also has an environmental Panel of Experts engaged to review social and environmental activities. Earlier in 2018, LHDA also appointed South Africa-based GA Environment Ltd as safety, health, environment andquality auditors for the advanced infrastructure contracts to provide temporary and permanent housing and offices, labour camps, main access roads, bulk power supply and telecommunications transmission lines that are all to be completed before the start of construction of the main dam and tunnel works in 2020. These early works began in 2018 with award of several contracts.

In October a Maluti/Rand 235 million 20-month contract was awarded to the Sinohydro SA/Nthane Brothers (Lesotho) JV to upgrade the existing 16km Polihali north-east access gravel road to a high standard surfaced road.

Also awarded in October 2018 for completion by June 2019, is a contract for the installation of temporary site offices and accommodation units at Tlokoeng, Mokhotlong. Awarded to the Basotho/South African partnership of Senqu Construction Services and Hi-Way Parkhome and Container Services, work includes security, fittings and furniture, and connection of water supply, sewage disposal and power supply utilities.

In December 2018 a Maluti 394 million two-year contract was awarded to the WBHO (South Africa)/LSP (Lesotho) JV is for advance works at the Polihali construction camp village and at the existing Katse village to upgrade of existing roads, water and wastewater systems and utilities at Katse and complete earthworks, create platforms for buildings, install water, wastewater and drainage systems and extend electrical and telecommunications networks at Polihali.

Chronicle of Phases IA and IB of the project
Chronicle of Phases IA and IB of the project
Link to online order form

“In line with the tendering strategy, advance infrastructure contracts are restricted to contractors registered in Lesotho and South Africa,” said Lesotho Minister of Water Samonyane Ntsekele. “A combination of local, regional and international expertise at the consulting and contracting level for the main elements of the project will contribute to skills transfer and capacity building within the local construction and engineering sector.”

These early works contracts mark the start of a six-year of Phase II construction period. “It has taken years of planning and preparation to get to this point. This is what we have been waiting for,” said LHDA Phase II Divisional Manager Tente Tente. In announcing the call for prequalification expressions of interest, Tente said: “Implementing large scale infrastructure projects combines maths and music: the maths of delivering multiple highly technical engineering components within a specific timeframe and budget, and the music of the softer skills of diplomacy, communication, social, environmental and community protection, while considering the interests and expectations of multiple, diverse stakeholders.”

Phase II of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project builds on the successful completion of Phase I in 2003. It delivers water to the Gauteng region of South Africa, that includes the conurbantions of Johannesburg and Pretoria, and utilises the water delivery system to generate hydro-electricity for Lesotho. Phase II will ensure a reliable water supply to South Africa by 2025, and will progressively increase the current supply rate of 780 million m3 per annum to more than 1,270 million m3 per annum. At the same time, it will increase the quantity of electricity generated in Lesotho in a further step to securing electricity independence for Lesotho.

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