The independent nation of Lesotho, tucked inside the borders of South Africa, boasts a rugged and majestic landscape that makes it a unique adventurer’s destination. But despite the nation’s tall mountains, it has historically suffered from water shortages, affecting the country’s vibrant textile industry and growing population. Providing much needed relief, the US$430 million Metolong Dam water infrastructure program will supply raw water for Lesotho’s capital, Maseru, and surrounding towns. The project will improve water delivery to domestic users and textile operations—preserving 48,000 jobs and creating approximately 6,000 new ones.
Serving as the project’s program manager, we are drawing from our global experience to keep the massive project on track while managing the shortage of required skills in Lesotho, the project’s stringent procurement guidelines, and multiple stakeholder and funding donors. The massive project will consist of an 83-meter roller-compacted concrete dam and multi-stage raw water intake and pump station; a 93-million-liter-per-day water treatment plant; and a downstream conveyance system, with more than 100 kilometers of transmission pipelines. In June 2015, the project reached a significant milestone when all pipe laying for the downstream conveyance system was completed, allowing for the filling of the Mpilo Reservoir above Maseru City for water distribution. Potable quality treated water is now being distributed over the full reach of the Metolong project—thus benefitting the lives of more 500,000 people.
As with most projects this size, stakeholder engagement and involvement are critical and ongoing. While an initial stakeholder input phase secured support and eased concerns about the program, we continue to keep communities abreast of project developments and address potential problems. Additional social and environmental management initiatives include cultural resources management and development, land acquisition and resettlement, and catchment management. The Metolong Dam will not only create a much-needed water supply for Maseru and the surrounding area, but it will stimulate Lesotho’s business and economy.
This clean source of water resulted in improved health, increased productivity, reduced infant and child mortality, and increased opportunity for businesses that offer employment.