LESOTHO, Mokhotlong – The Community members from around Liseleng in the Malingoaneng Constituency held a gathering to table their grievances on the Lesotho Highlands Water Project Phase II constructions which have affected them.
This was a follow up after the communities were seen holding placards bearing messages that were clear that they are not satisfied with the project at the sod-turning event of the Polihali Phase II project a few weeks ago.
The Treaty governing the Lesotho Highlands Water Project and the Phase II Agreement commits both Parties to take “all reasonable measures to ensure that the implementation, operation and maintenance of the project are compatible with the protection and the existing quality of the environment and, in particular, shall pay due regard to the maintenance of the welfare of the persons and communities immediately affected by the Project.”
Malingoaneng constituency Member of Parliament Hon. Monethi Ramakalima said the purpose of this public gathering was for community members to table grievances and expectations in the presence of the management of the Polihali project, the contractor, districts administrators and all relevant stakeholders.
“This is a follow up on issues affecting the community members here, for all of us to solve these issues in a good manner bearing all sides. Fellow members, we are in this together,” Ramakalima highlighted.
While tabling their grievances, these communities revealed that the current road construction has destroyed their two water springs which supplied water to them, forcing them to walk long distances to fetch water. And that they have learned that the water supplied by the contactor is not safe as it is sourced from Katse dam.
They also indicated that among the villagers there are those who are educated and those who know how to operate construction vehicles and machines, but they did not make it to the list of those employed.
Another issue is of the contractor who had promised to build an office for the Chief but has not delivered that promise. They also asked the contractor to do something for their village, making an example of building a Police Post.
They said this road construction has also affected the grass that their animals used to feed on and the same grass they use to thatch their roofs but now there is nothing thus affecting their livestock and finances.
The Lesotho Highlands Development Authority (LHDA) Divisional Manager Phase II Gerard Mokone made known that LHDA is mandated to ensure that the risks associated with resettlement are addressed and that the livelihoods of affected people are restored.
Mokone urged the contractor to fix the issues that the villagers tabled. He explained that the aim of the Lesotho Highlands Waters Project is to empower and uplift communities around its developments. He further indicated that his office is forever open to listen and address their grievances.
On behalf of the contractor, the communication specialist Dion Dion Admitted that the road construction has affected water springs and in response the contractor is supplying water to the villagers. That the water is tested and safe for drinking as the test results are available in their offices. Moreover, that they have approached Rural Water Supply to help solve this issue of water permanently by supplying water to the area.
On the issue of a house that was affected by the blasting during road works, Dion promised that they will fix it. He also urged the community members that whenever they have grievances, they should consult their offices as they are always open.
The Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP) is a multi-phased project to provide water to the Gauteng region of South Africa and to generate hydro-electricity for Lesotho. It was established by the 1986 Treaty signed by the governments of the Kingdom of Lesotho and the Republic of South Africa. The project entails harnessing the waters of the Senqu/Orange River in the Lesotho highlands through the construction of a series of dams for the mutual benefit of the two countries. Phase I of the project was completed in 2003 and inaugurated in 2004, and Phase II is currently underway.
Construction of the Polihali Dam and reservoir, water transfer tunnel and the associated access roads, bridges, accommodation, electrical transmission lines and telecommunications infrastructure, will impact on communities in Mokhotlong and adjoining districts.