Controversy over the future of the road

Controversy over the future of the road

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In 2005, the South African government started a process proposing to upgrade the Sani Pass with a hard surface. This was part of a joint project with Lesotho to upgrade the whole route across that country. On the Lesotho side of the border, the tarring of the road from Mokhotlong to Sani Top began in November 2012 with construction by a Chinese contractor proceeding at great pace. They have had little regard to local people, their land and crops, or to the environment (they have caused great environmental damage). They have worked with much manpower and many resources, and finished the road in 3 years. It appears to be a well constructed road – time will tell! On the South African side, an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process had to be followed before any work can begin. The EIA began in 2007, and after much public consultation, was concluded in late 2012. The EIA report then went to the South African Department of Environmental Affairs, and they gave their decision in mid-2013. To the delight of most local people on both sides of the border, the decision was that the upgrade could take place, but only with an upgraded gravel surface which would preserve the character of the Pass itself. However, the Department of Transport appealed, and in mid-2014, the Minister handed down her decision in upholding the appeal and giving permission for the hard surface. A very sad day indeed! As of May 2017, work on the first phase of the project which goes as far as the South African border post has begun and this should take three years. The second phase, from the South African border post to the top is still some way off – the design of the road (a very difficult task given the terrain) has not yet been completed.