Mr. Mathealira Lerotholi manager of the Lesotho lowlands water development project phase 2 (LLWDP-II) say the future of Lesotho lies in its power to unearth untapped water opportunities. With five multipurpose dams yet to be built soon, the country’s wealth clearly lies in the exploration of water opportunities.

Lerotholi exposes below the vast job opportunities presented by the current LLWDP-II infrastructure construction which is a world bank, European union and Lesotho funded project intended to increase water availability and access to improved water supply services. It is also intended to improve technical and financial performance of WASCO.

LLWDP-II is a project which was undertaken by the Lesotho government about 21 years ago equating the Lesotho Highlands Water Project. With the majority of Basotho resettled in the western side of the country, being the lowlands part, there is vast arable land. The phase II project is therefore set to serve water from Butha Buthe in the north to Quthing in the south covering all the lowland districts of Lesotho.

By the year 2045, 2 million Basotho will be benefiting from this project, it said. Phase 1 known as Metolong project served Berea and surrounding areas and the benefits are being enjoyed. Phase II determined by the availability of funds thereby prioritizing certain areas driven by the water desperation in them.

However, the phase II projects have been selected; in the north the project is preparing to build water infrastructure that will be serving Leribe, Hlotse and Maputsoe. This is purely driven by the garment manufacturing industry where in Lesotho garments were only produced and not washed. Due to the lack of enough water supply, the finished textile products are taken to south Africa for washing, a clear scenario of water desperation in that area. 

In the southern part of Lesotho Mafeteng and Mohale’s Hoek are a priority for water supply particularly because the latter is almost a desert.  It has come to the attention of the authorities the water desperation in those areas hence phase II is taking care of the need.  

This LLWDP-II is without doubt a mega project, it therefore has in store a wealth of lucrative employment and labour prospects. Job opportunities within this sector include construction of large infrastructure.

In the north districts LLWDP-II is looking at creating of treatment works with capacity of 25 million mega liters of water and transmission mains to cover about 115,000 people who will benefit from the clean water supply. Project manager clarifies that they are expecting to work on the existing water systems to reduce the cost non-revenue water from 50% to 25%. Completion is expected to be in 2026.  In the southern districts they are looking at around 50 million liters covering over 280,000 people with the cost of non-revenue water reduced from 45% to 20% and the project is expected to be completed by 2027.

The project implementing partners are the commissioner of water (CoW), water and sewerage company (WASCO), department of rural water supply (DRWS), department of water affairs (DWA) and the Lesotho electricity & water authority (LEWA).

Experiences in the past projects continue to prove that access to finance could still be a future problem to aspiring contractors, for this matter the LLWDP-II is recommending businesses to be financially prepared to avoid lost opportunities. The lack of financial guarantee especially for locals impacts negatively on the project timeline causing delays.  

“It was so difficult for us to get them (contractors) to start because we could not get all the guarantees as we required. Some reasoned that they could not get additional financial support from their financiers as they were still behind with repayments. We have to intervene on their behalf to their financiers providing support that they would actually be paid once their job is completed, this was understood and the project was completed,” Mathealiara said, quoting past experiences.

The banks may be very strict but they are ready to assist with finance. Job opportunities will be advertised on the LLWDP-II websites, visit it weekly and read newspapers. Service providers must be on the lookout to assist with everything.

The LLWDP-II water supply is looking into investments in Hlotse to Maputsoe. The anticipated are heritage impact assessment, environmental flow assessment, river modeling of the Hlotse river, refurbishment of Maputsoe boreholes, construction of two hydrometric stations, compensation of affected persons, conclusions on the water security with the LHWP and then the implementation of the 4 large civil works.

Capacity building, institutional strengthening and project management will comprise of institutionalization of the Lesotho bulk water authority, LEWA technical assistance on compliance, sanitation planning technical assistance and community mobilization and sensation. Contractors should therefore be ready to start working around September 2023.

The multibillion Maluti mega project is in the pipeline with consultations from the European consultants having completed their work. By the year 2025 it is expected consumption of the water service will have kicked with everything coming to conclusion by 2027.

For those intending to work in the LLWDP-II requirements include tender guarantees, advance payment guarantees, performance guarantee, work insurance and letter of credit for those facilitated by third parties. There are no preferred bidders at the stage therefore the public is advised to tender for work. The country still needs to categorize contractors.

Only three contractors could qualify to do the infrastructure intended to be built. However, job seekers should not despair but rather be on the lookout when tenders are being published as to who to partner with worldwide. “The funding for this project is from world bank therefore as a country we do not have preferences, anyone qualifying to do the job anywhere in the world is allowed to place their bid,” Mathealira strongly advices locals to formulate with international companies to make stronger joint ventures.

In June 2023 the tender for the design and build of the intake works and water treatment will be advertised. From August the tender for the transmission mains and command reservoirs will be released, also the tender for the Khanyane, Hlotse and Maputsoe distribution networks will published. As for zone 6&7, it is at the initial stage for the consultancy services. requests for proposal are expected to be submitted to shortlisted firms.

The LLWDP-II has vast opportunities with several multi-purpose dams in the pipeline. They include Makhaleng, Hlotse, Ngoajane, Semonkong and Seaka. Already we have Metolong dam however there are challenges that we hope these new dams will address. The design for these is in progress. If Seaka can be constructed, one can take a boat cruise from Quthing to Mokhotlong in future.

Water provides unlimited developmental opportunities, including tourism, aquaculture, hydropower, irrigation and many more including solar panels.

Of all the Orange Senqu water catchment countries, Lesotho population and area is only 3.3% of the area compared to Botswana 7.8%, South Africa takes 64.5% and Nambia 24.5%. Though area occupied is smallest it is benefiting the highest yield in terms of its rainfall catchment of 755mm per rainfall followed by South Africa with 365mm, then Botswana and last being Namibia. On the water use by country, Botswana has uses nothing while Lesotho is second lowest with less than 0.37 % use of the rainwater it collects and stores, SA uses 98% of all the water within this region.  Of the Orange Senqu catchment countries, the water stored in the rivers of Lesotho is 42%, SA is 52%, Namibia is 5.7% and Botswana is 0.3%. These means there are so many untapped water opportunities in Lesotho.