Poli­hali Dam un­der threat

Lesotho Times - - Front Page - Pas­cali­nah Kabi

LO­CAL com­mu­ni­ties in the Mokhot­long dis­trict have vowed to stop the con­struc­tion of the pro­posed Poli­hali Dam which is sched­uled to be­gin next year if their de­mands for com­pen­sa­tion are not met.

The com­mu­ni­ties are de­mand­ing life­time com­pen­sa­tion or al­ter­na­tively pay­ment for a 99 year pe­riod from the Le­sotho High­lands De­vel­op­ment Author­ity (the LHDA which will im­ple­ment the dam project) for the loss of their land.

How­ever, the LHDA has said it will only com­pen­sate them for a pe­riod of 50 years at mar­ket rates in line with statu­tory re­quire­ments.

The Poli­hali Dam is due to be con­structed in terms of the bi-na­tional Le­sotho High­lands Wa­ter Project (LHWP Phase II).

The 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 Le­sotho and 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 LHWP, con­sist­ing of the Katse and Mo­hale dams, the ‘Muela hy­dropower sta­tion and as­so­ci­ated tun­nels was com­pleted in 2003 and in­au­gu­rated in 2004. Phase II of the LHWP is cur­rently in progress. It con­sists of two sep­a­rate but re­lated com­po­nents: wa­ter trans­fer and hy­dropower gen­er­a­tion. The bi­lat­eral project which is es­ti­mated to cost at least M23 bil­lion, is ex­pected to pro­vide about 3 000 jobs at the peak of its op­er­a­tions.

The wa­ter trans­fer com­po­nent of Phase II com­prises an ap­prox­i­mately 165m high con­crete faced rock fill Dam at Poli­hali down­stream of the confluence of the Khubelu and Senqu (Or­ange) Rivers and an ap­prox­i­mately 38km long con­crete-lined grav­ity tun­nel con­nect­ing the Poli­hali reser­voir to the Katse reser­voir.

Other Phase II ac­tiv­i­ties in­clude ad­vance in­fra­struc­ture (roads, ac­com­mo­da­tion, power lines and telecom­mu­ni­ca­tion) and the im­ple­men­ta­tion of en­vi­ron­men­tal and so­cial mit­i­gat­ing mea­sures.

How­ever, the lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties in Mokhot­long, who have grouped them­selves into the Sur­vivors of Le­sotho Dams (SOLD) or­gan­i­sa­tion, are threat­en­ing to dis­rupt the dam con­struc­tion if their de­mands for com­pen­sa­tion are not met.

SOLD is a civic hu­man rights or­gan­i­sa­tion com­mit­ted to pro­mot­ing so­cial jus­tice among com­mu­ni­ties af­fected by dams, mines and other large in­fra­struc­ture de­vel­op­ments.

The or­gan­i­sa­tion was es­tab­lished in 2004 af­ter some of the com­mu­ni­ties af­fected by the LHWP Phase I were not com­pen­sated and oth­ers only re­ceived com­pen­sa­tion 20 years af­ter the com­ple­tion of the Katse and Mo­hale dams.

Ad­dress­ing the me­dia in Maseru on Tues- day, SOLD Na­tional Co­or­di­na­tor, Lenka Thamae, said the or­gan­i­sa­tion was watch­ing the Poli­hali de­vel­op­ments with keen in­ter­est.

Mr Thamae urged the LHDA to speed­ily re­view the com­pen­sa­tion rates to re­spond to en­sure jus­tice was served.

“We are aware that the af­fected com­mu­ni­ties have been com­plain­ing that com­pen­sa­tion is too lit­tle and in­ad­e­quate,” Mr Thamae said.

He fur­ther called on the LHDA to en­sure that the re­lo­cated com­mu­ni­ties were pro­vided with clean wa­ter and san­i­ta­tion be­fore the dam con­struc­tion starts.

“The LHDA must re­frain from a cap­i­tal­ist men­tal­ity of de­vel­op­ment where tarred roads end within the project des­ig­nated ar­eas, leav­ing the vil­lages close to the project without any de­vel­op­ment.

“We stand with our peo­ple that em­ploy­ment at the Poli­hali Dam must in the first in­stance, be given to the lo­cals as a right.

“We have used the courts be­fore to force the author­ity to come to the table and lis­ten to the com­mu­nity’s griev­ances. We have enough num­bers to en­sure that the project comes to a stand­still,” Mr Thamae said.

He added that it was un­for­tu­nate that the com­mu­ni­ties were be­ing un­fairly treated by be­ing forced to sur­ren­der their land.

SOLD Or­gan­iser, Kha­pane Mohlomi, who was re­lo­cated from Ha Mo­hale to Ha ‘Ne­lese dur­ing the Phase I project, said they have forced the LHDA’S hand be­fore and they would not hes­i­tate to re­peat that to se­cure a fair deal for the lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties.

“We have blocked the roads be­fore and threat­ened to throw stools into the Katse Dam and these tricks have worked. The LHDA came to the table and we bar­gained. Even to­day, we are not go­ing to sit back and watch while com­mu­ni­ties are be­ing mis­treated,” Mr Mohlomi said.

How­ever, the LHDA’S Poli­hali Op­er­a­tions Man­ager, Ger­ard Mokone, is on record as say­ing, “The is­sue of life­time com­pen­sa­tion is out, let us not pre­tend over this mat­ter”.

“This (giv­ing life­time com­pen­sa­tion) has never hap­pened any­where in the world and we don’t think it’s go­ing to hap­pen here. Some­times we have to face the facts and we must en­sure or­di­nary cit­i­zens un­der­stand this in­stead of push­ing them to make such de­mands,” Mr Mokone said, adding that the 50-year com­pen­sa­tion of­fer was fi­nal.

He also said it was im­por­tant for the na­tion to know that the con­sti­tu­tion and the Land Act of 2010 gave the gov­ern­ment the right to re­pos­sess land from in­di­vid­u­als for pub­lic pur­poses and com­pen­sate for the loss.

He said the laws did not spec­ify the du­ra­tion of the com­pen­sa­tion but only stated that the com­pen­sa­tion must be prompt and fair.

Part 10, sec­tion 56 of the Land Act of 2010 states that “In all cases in which the im­ple­men­ta­tion of this act re­sults in com­pul­sory ac­qui­si­tion of the prop­erty, the per­son de­prived of such prop­erty shall be en­ti­tled to com­pen­sa­tion at mar­ket value”.

The af­fected in­di­vid­u­als have the op­tion of re­ceiv­ing their com­pen­sa­tion money as a lump sum or over a pe­riod of time.

SOLD Na­tional Co­or­di­na­tor Lenka Thamae.

SOLD Or­gan­iser Kha­pane Mohlomi.

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