SA seeks water infrastructure funding

14 March 2012

South Africa is seeking international funding for its multi-billion rand water infrastructure building plans, Deputy Water Affairs Minister Rejoice Mabudafhasi said at the World Water Forum (WWF) in Marseille, France on Tuesday.

“We’ve got countries coming forward and offering us technology. They’re saying they’d like to partner with us,” Mabudafhasi said after opening a joint South Africa-Lesotho display at the WWF.

Asked if South Africa was hoping to attract foreign capital for its plan to spend more than R60-billion on water infrastructure over the next three years, she said: “Yes, that is why we have this stand. We need funding for infrastructure.”

Mabudafhasi declined to reveal any details, or to say whether a big deal was imminent. “We are still talking,” she told Sapa.

The display-stand at the WWF includes a backdrop photograph of the giant Khatse Dam in Lesotho, the main reservoir for the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP).

One of the biggest projects in the world

The project, one of the biggest of its kind in the world, supplies water from Lesotho to South Africa’s industrial heartland, Gauteng.

Phase two of the project, which includes the building of a second big dam in Lesotho, as well as the boring of a 38km-long tunnel, is set to start supplying water in July 2020. It will cost an estimated R15.4-billion.

Cutting a ribbon to officially open the display, Mabudafhasi described the LHWP as a “classic example” of how to manage water across a border.

“Both countries benefit from the water that flows from the mountain kingdom of Lesotho. It’s a classical example of [trans-border] water management.”

Lesotho benefited from the revenue it received, and from the jobs the project had created in that country; South Africa benefited from an assured supply of water for Gauteng.

Posing for photographs with officials from the Lesotho Highlands Water Commission, the deputy minister assured them: “We won’t waste a drop.”

Growing demand for water

She also noted that urban migration and ageing infrastructure had put a strain on the delivery of water and the provision of sanitation in South Africa.

Supplying rural areas and meeting the demands of the country’s growing economy were also contributing factors.

Asked to comment on forecasts of a water crunch in South Africa about a decade from now, she said: “We’re very confident our water won’t get finished.”

The exhibition hall where she was speaking had a water problem of its own around midday on Tuesday.

While several of the country stands inside the hall displayed dozens of ingenious water and sanitation devices, a queue was forming outside the door of the venue’s single, three-toilet restroom.

Sapa