Construction work to raise Seychelles' main reservoir -- La Gogue Dam -- to increase its water storage capacity is expected to start in November, a top official of the Public Utilities Corporation said.
The level of the reservoir, built in 1969 in the northern Mahe district of Anse Etoile, will be raised by six metres to increase its storage capacity by 60 percent.
The project will be undertaken by the Sinohydro Corporation, a Chinese company based in Mauritius. It is expected to be completed by 2019.
Once completed, the reservoir's capacity will increase by 600,000 cubic metres, making its total storage capacity 1.6 million cubic metres. Among the facilities will be a new water treatment plant with the capacity of treating 4,400 cubic metres of water per day that will help to ensure sufficient water supply for the northern region.
Water scarcity, a worldwide phenomenon, is not uncommon to the Seychelles, a group of 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean with a population of 93,000. It is more evident during the dry season when the southeast trade winds kick in, from May till September.
The chief executive of the Public Utilities Corporation, Philippe Morin, said that the quality of the work for raising the dam is the key in the implementation of the project.
"We are emphasizing the quality of work which they are doing. PUC will work with them (the Chinese corporation) closely to help and guide them to ensure that in the end, we have a successful project," said Morin.
The contract for the project, which costs around $13.6 million (SCR 185 million), is for two years.
Morin said that "during the two years, we expect them to work in a serious and professional manner and with high standards."
The Public Utilities Corporation has started a series of public consultations in the northern districts of the main island Mahe -- Anse Etoile, English River, Bel Ombre, Beau Vallon, and Perseverance. The meetings are to give members of the public updated information on the project and for them to share their views and concerns.
Some residents are concerned about the project's impact on their living standards.
"I live right next to the dam; in fact, my property is closest to it. I am concerned about the impact that the project will have on my property," said Lisanne Jeannie adding that pollution is also a big concern at one of the public meetings.
"Now that they have signed the contract, I hope that any damage that they are aware as to the damage that may happen to my property and will compensate me," Jeannie told SNA via telephone.
Another resident of Anse Etoile at the public meeting, Ralph Ernesta said he felt that the contract should not have been signed.
"We are not happy, and we feel that more time should have been given for consultations. More discussion is needed," said Ernesta.
Morin, the chief executive, assured the public that all measures will be taken to minimise the negative impacts, including steps to ensure adequate water supply once water in the dam is not available for consumption.
"The contractors will be on site anytime after the contract is signed. We expect to see the real impact on the water by March or April next year. This will give us enough time for preparations," said Morin. He added that "fresh water projects, such as Caiman, L'ilette, Anse Major have started and we anticipate their completion in time before we arrive at the restriction."
At the moment, when there is a water shortage, Seychelles relies on several desalination plants found on all three main islands to complement fresh water sources.
Seychelles has a smaller reservoir, the Rochon Dam, with a storage capacity of 50,000 cubic metres of water.