Giant dam to displace Basothos

2011-11-09 13:04

More than 2 500 Basothos will be removed to make way for the giant Polihali Dam in the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP), Water Affairs Minister Edna Molewa said today.

In a written reply to a parliamentary question, she said the removals would be handled by the Lesotho government.

“[A] feasibility study identified about 2 550 people, from 17 villages, that may need to be relocated,” she said.

“The Lesotho government has handled this kind of a project before ... and we are confident that even in this instance they will handle it with the necessary duty and care.”

Molewa said phase two of the project, being built to ensure an adequate supply of water for South Africa’s economic heartland of Gauteng, would be completed in nine years.

“The implementation of phase two will ... ensure continued water availability for these socieconomically growing areas from the Vaal system to meet current and projected demands at adequate assurance of supply until about 2045,” she said.

The second phase includes construction of the 2.2 billion cubic metre capacity Polihali Dam in Lesotho’s Mokhotlong district.

According to the website of the Lesotho Highlands Development Agency (LHDA), in a section titled “resettlement”, the reservoir formed by the Polihali Dam will displace far more than just 2457 people from 17 villages.

It says the huge lake will also submerge the fields and grazing lands of a further 16 560 villagers. “Other assets affected by reservoir (fields and grazing): 72 villages affected, 3 132 households [and] 16 560 people.”

A “summary of communities’ assets lost to dam and inundation” lists houses, rondavels, kraals, business facilities, a church and a school.

According to the LHDA, the total cost of phase two of the LHWP is R15.4 billion, including building the Polihali Dam, tunnels, pump-storage facilities and power lines. It says the “social costs” of the project amounts to R363 million.

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