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Pretoria – Water supply in the Eastern Cape is set to improve with the launch of the R12.45-billion Mzimvubu Water Project in Tsolo Junction.

President Jacob Zuma on Friday oversaw the *** turning ceremony, which marked the official start of the project.

The massive undertaking forms part of government’s Strategic Integrated Projects, specifically SIP 18, which focuses on the delivery of water and sanitation to all in South Africa.

The Mzimvubu project will include the construction of two dams: one in Ntabelanga on the Tsitsa River, which will be used for domestic and agricultural water supply requirements.

The Ntabelanga dam will store approximately 490 million cubic meters of water. Once completed, it will become the 10th largest dam in South Africa.

“The Ntabelanga dam is also strategically placed for a possible supply to the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality and the Orange/Vaal River System in the longer term,” President Zuma said.

The other dam to be built is the Laleni dam, which will be used for hydro power generation. The dam has the potential to generate 35 megawatts of base power, or up to 180 megawatts of peaking power when operated jointly with Ntabelanga dam.

About 18.5km of power lines will be erected to feed the power onto the national power grid.

In all, the Mzimvubu Water Project entails the building of the two dams, a hydropower plant at Laleni, bulk water distribution infrastructure and infield irrigation developments in the area.

The project is also good news for employment in the province.

“The project is expected to create about 6 700 jobs per annum during the construction phase and 6 500 jobs per annum during the operational phase,” said President Zuma.

Three districts -- OR Tambo, Alfred Nzo and Joe Gqabi -- will benefit from the project, which aims to serve over 720 000 households in domestic water supply.

A detailed design of Ntabelanga dam and associated works and infrastructure is currently underway and is expected to be completed by June this year.

The actual construction of the dam and associated works and infrastructure is expected to start in November this year and to be completed by February 2018.

This will be followed by an intensive construction of bulk water conveyance infrastructure, the infield farming infrastructure and the building of the Laleni hydro power scheme in 2016/17.

First water delivery is expected to be in early 2018. –