Lesotho Water Project Governance

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Ahmed M.Ashraf

Governance

2010

1- Overview of Lesotho Highlands Water Project

South Africa is a water scarce country and its neighbor, Lesotho is a water rich country categorized by high annual rainfall. South Africa in view of its increasing demand for water in the Guateng region (regarded as the heartland of South Africa) realized the water is going to be scarce in future1. The idea of transfer of water from water rich area (Lesotho) to the water scarce area (Gauteng, S.A) was conceived in 1950 which resulted in the signing of Lesotho Highlands Water treaty (LWHP) in 1986 between the government of Lesotho and South Africa for inter basin water transfer from Lesotho Senqu/Orange river in to Vall river which supplies water to water scarce region, Gauteng, South Africa2. The project comprised of 5 phases out of which phase 1 i.e., 1A and 1B were completed in 1998 and 2003 respectively with over 200 km of tunnels to divert 0.6 km3 water/year to the Guteng region3. The donor country i.e., Lesotho would in turn receive royalties which significantly contribute to the GDP of Lesotho and generates electricity for the Lesotho, making itself sufficient in meeting its electricity needs. Project was completed at the total cost of $ 8 million which was provided by World Bank, the development bank of South Africa, African development bank and the European development funds4.

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G. Dut. De Villiers, P. M. U. Schmitz & H. J. Booysen. (1996). South Africa’s Water Resources and the Lesotho Highlands Water Scheme: A Partial Solution to the Country’s Water Problems. Water Resources Development. 12 (1), p65-77. 2 Mwangi, Oscar. (2007). Hydro politics, Ecocide and Human Security in Lesotho: A Case Study of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project. Journal of South African Studies. 33 (1), p3-17 3 Ibid 4 Lawrence Keketso. (2003). Mixed Blessings of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project: An Assessment Based on Local Perspectives. Mountain Research and Development. 23 (1), p7-10

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Ahmed M.Ashraf

Governance

2010

2- The problems and problem drivers
The construction of the dam has negatively affected the local inhabitants, resulting in the environmental, social, economic and cultural loses. Social losses5 Communities which were living together for centuries were torn apart and forced to live separate from each other in an unfamiliar host community which generally didn’t accept them. It was difficult for them to adjust to a new administration in the host community. Problems were created not only for the migratory community but also for the host community as it placed increased burden on the natural resources such as fire wood, arable land and grazing land for the livestock. Migrated people were not allowed to bury their dead in the host community grave yards. Large influx of construction workers brought in a host of other problems disturbing the society and spreading AIDS. Economic Losses6 Economic losses were mainly from the losses of land by the project. Arable land, which is already a scarce commodity (8% of total land) in Lesotho, was largely taken up by dam leaving behind a fraction of land for competing users. Building of dam also submerged large areas of land which provided to over 146$ worth of useful commodity annually for the families. Growing crops, raising cattle and selling natural/ wild vegetable and herbs were main and stable source of income for the people of Lesotho. Dam also resulted in the stoppage of flow in some of the streams and rivers resulting in drying up and loss of fisheries and eco system services. Cultural Losses7 Areas of land which were passed on to them from generations have been taken up by the project and no land compensation was provided. These lands were a place of traditional and cultural activities since generations. Ancestral places and graveyards were lost to the project. The pattern of living and interaction between the inhabitants which was built on generations was lost suddenly to...
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