“By buckling down and tapping into Aurecon resources across the country, Aurecon was able to contribute to a sustainable water supply that will meet the future needs of Lesotho and deliver environmental authorisation in record time,” says Natanya Whitehorn, Aurecon Manager, Environment and Planning.
Water scarcity constitutes a major barrier to economic development and inclusive growth in Lesotho. Historically, the supply of water to urban areas in the Lowlands has come from river extraction and pumping water from underground sources. With the increase in the urban population and commercial activities in the Lowlands, as well as higher demand for water access and supply, the region has experienced even greater pressure on water resources and water supply facilities.
In 2019, the European Investment Bank signed an €82-million loan for Phase II of the Lesotho Lowlands Water Development Project (LLWDP II), which aims to address water-related challenges by improving water supply to the Lowlands settlements in Zones 6 and 7 (areas around Mafeteng and Mohale’s Hoek Region). It also committed to a loan of €68.4 million with the World Bank for supply to sub-zoned areas, Zones 2 and 3 (Hlotse and Maputsoe and villages en route). These projects serve settlements of over 2 500 settlements who need clean, fresh water for domestic, institutional and industrial purposes. The project also introduces a bulk-treated water supply system that is technically, economically, socially, environmentally and financially viable for the Lowlands region.
Aurecon was appointed by the Lesotho Water Commission to conduct an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA), as well as a Resettlement Action Plan (RAP) for Zones 2 and 3 of the LLWDP II, where water is obtained from the Hlotse River. Water resource analysis indicated that the water in the Hlotse River during low flow periods would not be enough to meet the current and future demand forecasts of the area. The instream flow, similarly, wouldn’t be sufficient to maintain ecological functioning further downstream.
The design team concluded that flows during winter and droughts would have to be augmented with water transfers from Katse Dam, a key part of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP). The proposed solution was for the water to transfer through the existing Transfer Tunnel into the upper reaches of the Hlotse River. One of the keys to solving the challenge in a sustainable way lay in the fact that water will not be released from Katse Dam separately for the sole purpose of supplementing this Phase II project. The water that was to be used originates in Lesotho and has already been released into the Transfer Tunnel and was therefore available for use by Lesotho, free of charge.
A project of this magnitude generally takes around twelve months to complete due to the amount of time that needs to be dedicated to analysis, demand forecasts, design, and regulatory approvals. To adhere to World Bank funding timeframes, the project team had to fast-track the process and commencing in June 2018, environmental authorisation was obtained in record time by January 2019. Aurecon drew upon resources from our Cape Town and Tshwane offices to be able to deliver on time and within budget.
Aurecon’s development of an effective RAP hinged on ensuring the people in the project area were involved in the resettlement plan process. Local people were trained to carry out surveys among community members. The engagement with local leaders and community members ultimately led to the successful implementation of the RAP.
“LLWDP II is expected to have a positive impact on as many as 300 000 direct beneficiaries, some 15% of the country’s population. I’m proud of how our team pulled together to help make Lesotho Lowlands future ready,” says Natanya Whitehorn.