The contractor for the Water Utilities Corporation’s (WUC) Masama 100km water pipeline has declared the project’s progress as ahead of schedule.
This came after the trenching and digging of trenches for the pipes began in earnest at three various points of the project.
Furthermore, the first batch of pipes to be laid in the trenches arrived on Thursday, as the manufacturers of the pipes in South Africa made good of their pledge to deliver on time, the contractor said.
“The first batch of 700mm diameter pipes and fittings arrived at the Botswana border on the 25th August 2020. A 1.5 km stretch of pipes will be laid from Thursday the 27th August 2020. More pipes will be delivery weekly,” Khato Civils chief executive officer, Mongezi Mnyani said from the group’s headquarters in Johannesburg.
Mnyani told Mmegi they expect the last batch of the pipes to arrive in December, with trenching and backfilling to be completed not later than the third week of December, at the pace the project is progressing.
“The project is on schedule and is accelerating and so far ahead of schedule,” Mnyani added.
It was not all smooth sailing in the beginning nonetheless, as the coronavirus pandemic that ravaged Italy, the original preferred source of the ductile iron pipes for the project, forced both the contractor and the client, WUC to look for alternatives.
This led to the current arrangement where a manufacturer was identified in South Africa, specifically for this project.
“The original plan submitted to WUC was to use the ductile iron pipe with spigot and socket for the joints. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the ductile iron pipe is not available. Their manufacturers are closed, those that are open are not fully operational, and there’s no guarantee they will be able to deliver within the required time lines,” Mnyani explained the early setback.
“Failure to deliver on time, would have had a major negative impact on the project. An alternative is a steel pipe joint by normal welding. This would take more time and lengthen the project duration by 12 months. The decision to use a steel pipe with spigot and socket joints, with a rubber gasket (O-ring Gasket) has been approved by WUC. Each pipe is 19.1 metres in length. There’s no welding required, just like the Ductile
Iron pipes. Therefore, there won’t be any delays on the time required to lay pipes.”
Mnyani added they also considered manufacturing the pipes in Botswana and held serious discussions with a local company in Palapye. However, the company’s factory did not meet the requirements to manufacture the pipes.
The pipes are being manufactured in South Africa by Africa Pipe Industries (API).
When it comes to trenching, Khato Civils boldly declared they are revolutionary in the technology.
Their state-of-the-art trenchers dig trenches to specifications, while at the same time clearing the soil from the trenches in a measured manner.
Their revolutionary machines do not dig out boulders, instead, when they reach a rock, they grind it down into powder in seconds, hence their moniker, Rockeaters.
When the trenching commenced this week there were three of these stationed at various points of the pipeline; two Tesmec 1150 and one Tesmec 1475 Trenchers while another one 1475 tesmic trencher will be transported here soon, according to Mnyani.
“Each trencher has a section to trench. There is a 2km restriction on open trenches. Compacting, pipe laying and backfilling should happen shortly after trenching. Trenching is aligned to the pipe delivery schedule,” Mnyani said.
Despite hailing the speed of their progress at the site, there is no denying the fact that COVID-19 has contributed its share of challenges as the project engineers had to adhere to the 14-day mandatory isolation before they could be declared fit to go to the site.
Recently, another team of engineers and technicians for the trenching machinery also had to undergo the two-week isolation before they could be released to go and attend to the machines to ensure they were in tiptop shape for the task at hand. Besides trenching, the 100km pipeline project also entails construction of tens of valve chambers, as well as site establishment at Malotwana and Artesia villages and the debushing of the pipeline pathway amongst others.
According to Mnyani, backfilling of the soil after trenching is a sensitive, and critical technical field that requires a specialised plant to separate various soil and stones particles to ensure that they do not scratch against pipes, leading to early wear and tear.