4.12.2008

South Africa approves $731 mln dam upgrade project

South Africa agreed 7.3 billion rand ($712.6 million) for Phase 2 of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP), a multi-billion dollar scheme with neighbour Lesotho, a government minister said on Thursday.
The project, which has a hydro-electric component, links a series of dams and was developed to transfer water from landlocked Lesotho to help meet growing demand in Africa's biggest economy.
"This (new) project, subject to the conclusion of a protocol with the government of Lesotho, will...include construction of the Polihali Dam in Lesotho," Water Affairs and Forestry Minister Lindiwe Hendricks told reporters. Capital markets would be tapped to help fund the project.
Hendricks called Phase 2 a "strategic intervention" to provide more water for the Vaal River system and ensure water security in Gauteng province, South Africa's commercial and industrial hub that includes Johannesburg and capital Pretoria.
The Vaal River system is considered the most important water resource in South Africa, supplying water to 45 percent of the country's estimated 47 million population, as well as to the bulk of power utility Eskom's coal-fired power stations, situated in the north-east region of the country.
Hendricks said Gauteng's water needs were projected to rise more than 30 percent by 2028, placing severe strain on supply. (Rts)

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