The Beginnings

The creation of water security for sustainable development in the industrial heartland of South Africa, through the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP).

In the early 1950′s the High Commissioner to Lesotho (then known as Basutoland, a British Protectorate) Sir Evelyn Baring, requested a survey of the water potential of the territory, because he realized that it was the only natural resource the land-locked country had in abundance. Sir Peter Ballenden, as Director of Public Works, chose Cape Town- based engineer Ninham Shand to determine the viability of exporting Lesotho’s water to areas of surrounding South Africa that he believed needed augmented supplies.

Shand came up with the Oxbow Project, a scheme that included a high-altitude dam, a hydroelectric power station, and a tunnel through the Maloti. The water in this system would then find its way to the goldfields of the neighboring Orange Free State. South Africa initially rejected this plan, but a mid- 1960s drought saw renewed interest in Lesotho’s offer.

In the mid-1970s, the South African Department of Water Affairs employed MJ Mountain & Partners together with Dr Henry Olivier to map and take rock samples from sites throughout northern Lesotho. However, due to political differences, it was not until 1978 that a Joint Technical Committee comprising experts from both countries began a full feasibility study. In 1983, agreement was reached on a more detailed project layout, which in turn required further joint feasibility studies. These studies were completed in April 1986.

The stage was set for the signing of an agreement that would forge an umbilical cord from the cradle of life in the Maloti to Africa’s engine of industry in Gauteng.