Water treaty not breached: Sole

Water treaty not breached: Sole

Staff Reporter

MASERU

TECHNICAL Advisor for Water Affairs Ministry Masupha Sole says the 1986 treaty between Lesotho and South Africa has not been breached in the Lesotho Highlands Water Project Phase II agreement.

Sole was speaking at a press conference last week in which Minister Ralechate ’Mokose was responding to the Lesotho Youth Leagues Forum and the Senate Petitions Committee’s concerns on the agreement for the construction of Polihali Dam in Mokhotlong district.

Like Katse and Mohale dam, Polihali will supply water to South Africa. .

The agreement was signed in August 2011.

The Youth League Forum and the Senate’s concern was that contrary to the 1986 treaty the Polihali Dam construction will be without the electricity generation for the benefit of Lesotho.

The main concern was that the second phase of the project is skewed towards the benefit of South Africa while Lesotho will just be a not-benefiting tank that will store water for its rich neighbour.

The Senate launched investigations in 2014 after the Youth Leagues Forum, which is made up of different political party youths, petitioned it to probe the manner in which the Lesotho government failed to protect the country’s interests in the agreement to build Polihali Dam.

However, Sole who said the treaty was signed in his presence as the chief delegate of the Lesotho government said it has been ensured that “every single drop of water that passes the border to South Africa will generate electricity for Lesotho”.

Answering why the two governments agreed on building Polihali Dam when the treaty stipulates that the dam that would be built in the second phase is Mashai, Sole said the treaty’s article 6 and 5 provide for a deviation of the original plan if the need arises.

“No breach of treaty done,” Sole said.

Speaking at the same conference, the principal secretary Khomoatsane Tau said the agreement to deviate from the original plan was because South Africa no longer needed the amount of water it said it would need when the treaty was signed in 1986.

Tau said the treaty said water tunnelled to South Africa would be 70 cubic metres per second but when South Africa said its need had reduced, Lesotho quickly thought of an alternative dam that could deliver the currently needed amount.

He said the agreement was that the dam would no longer be Mashai but Polihali instead.

But, to ensure that the electricity component is not left out it was decided that there will be Kobong Pump Storage as opposed to the original Matsoku weir.

Tau denied that feasibility study for the Matsoku Pump Storage is incomplete.

The Senate had argued that contrary to the then Energy Minister Tšeliso Mokhosi that Kobong Pump Storage would be constructed concurrently with Polihali Dam, it did not look practically feasible.

The Senate committee argued that it was practically not possible because a feasibility study was not even complete and that the projected costs were far too heavy for Lesotho to shoulder.

It was estimated to be in excess of M8 billion.

It argued that in the absence of a complete feasibility study and in the absence of study about transmission lines, geo-technical investigations and environment impact assessment and also in the absence of the requisite finances “there can be no talk about Kobong Pump Storage”.

Tau said all studies have been carried out.

 

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