Wa­ter cri­sis hits Pon­tšeng hard

Lesotho Times - - News - Lekhetho Nt­sukun­yane

QUTHING — It is still early morn­ing but the swel­ter­ing heat has al­ready en­veloped the en­tire Pon­tšeng area like an open iron smol­der­ing fur­nace.

Weary and vis­i­bly be­wil­dered, 11year old Thato Chombo re­mains in her place in the des­per­ate queue. It’s 9.20 am. But the girl, to­gether with her equally ten­der aged friend, Li­neo Dae­mane, say they have been in the queue since 4am. All to try and fill their 25 litre con­tain­ers with wa­ter from a tiny well that has be­come the ma­jor source of wa­ter for dozens of fam­i­lies liv­ing around Pon­tšeng.

“I woke up very early in the morn­ing. At around 4:00 am. I joined Li­neo here. There were al­ready other peo­ple who ar­rived at the well be­fore us and we joined them,” says Thato.

Also in the queue is a 16-year old Mary Mosoang who said she woke up “be­tween 2am and 3am” that morn­ing to fetch wa­ter from the scanty well.

“Yet when I got here, there were al­ready other peo­ple who came ear­lier. Some peo­ple wake up at mid­night to come and col­lect the wa­ter here. The wa­ter is very scanty from the well. So even if you are early, it takes you time to fill the con­tainer be­cause you still have to wait for the wa­ter to fill up in the small well be­fore scoop­ing it in the bucket,” ex­plains Mary.

The well looks so small that even at full ca­pac­ity, it can hardly fill up a 5liter con­tainer. Yet it has turned out to be “the only re­li­able source of wa­ter” serv­ing dozens of fam­i­lies within Pon­tšeng’s vicin­ity. The wa­ter per­co­lates into the well slowly from un­der­ground. As enough wa­ter to fill a small cup trick­les into the well, it is scooped out by the first per­son in the queue to fill their con­tainer.

It’s a very slow and painstack­ing process. But for the res­i­dents of Pon­tšeng, one and half hours drive from Quthing, this is the only way to ex­tract “clean” drink­ing wa­ter. In fact the un­pro­tected well is their nat­u­ral spring.

All the other sources of wa­ter in the area have dried up due to the cur­rent crip­pling drought. The small river which cuts across the seven vil­lages of Pon­tšeng has al­most dried up and with its lit­tle wa­ter it holds is used for the an­i­mals.

All the taps in­stalled in the 1970s through a Euro­pean de­vel­op­ment agency to help vil­lagers gain ac­cess to clean wa­ter from struc­tures build to store the wa­ter have dried up.

It takes a sub­stan­tial amount of time for one vil­lager to scoop enough wa­ter to fill a 25 liter bucket as the wa­ter fil­ter very slowly from the un­der­ground into the well.

Fifty Four year old ’ Malomile Mosoang says the well has be­come their only re­li­able source of clean wa­ter af­ter all other sources ran dry be­gin­ning Oc­to­ber last year.

She says: “The strug­gle for wa­ter in this area started in Oc­to­ber. Other sources of wa­ter, in­clud­ing the com­mu­nity taps do­nated to us by de­vel­op­ment part­ners, started dry­ing from then. We have since sought help from ev­ery rel­e­vant au­thor­ity and we are still wait­ing pa­tiently for any help to come our way.”

Seventy year old Nekola Ma­sonko says he has lived most of his life in Pon­tšeng but “life has not been this much dif­fi­cult. This drought is sim­ply un­bear­able.”

Mr Ma­sonko ap­peals to the govern­ment and de­vel­op­ment part­ners to in­ter­vene: “If they can only pro­vide us with ex­perts to come and check how best our wa­ter sources from the moun­tains can be streamed down to vil­lages to pro­vide us with wa­ter.”

Mr Ma­sonko says vil­lagers have al­ready iden­ti­fied wa­ter sources from the nearby moun­tains, “but we just need ex­perts to come and help us with the in­fra­struc­ture to draw this wa­ter” It is not pos­si­ble for hu­mans to walk up the gi­gan­tic moun­tains and down with buck­ets of wa­ter.

The lo­cal chief, Tšolo Moeletsi, says all the seven vil­lages within the Pon­tšeng area, “are in dire need of wa­ter be­cause of the drought.” Chief Moeletsi echoes Mr Ma­sonko’s sen­ti­ments that they needed ex­perts to come and as­sist them.

The plight of Pon­tšeng is a mi­cro­cosm of the hard­ships in­flicted on peo­ple par­tic­u­larly liv­ing in re­mote ar­eas by the cur­rent crip­pling down.

Pon­tšeng’s seven vil­lages, Pho­keng, Mathun­yeng, Taung, Mak­i­laseng, Thota­neng and Maebeng, have since been iden­ti­fied by World Vi­sion, un­der its Mokotjomela Area De­vel­op­ment Pro­gramme (ADP), to re­ceive hu­man­i­tar­ian as­sis­tance af­ter an as­sess­ment cur­rently un­der­way.

The World Vi­sion’s Hu­man­i­tar­ian Emer­gency Affairs’ (HEA) Disas­ter Man­age­ment and Risk Re­duc­tion co­or­di­na­tor, Beket­sane Nt­sebeng, says his agency is work­ing with the govern­ment on a plan to ad­dress the wa­ter cri­sis across the coun­try.

Mr Nt­sebeng said: “As World Vi­sion, we have part­nered with the govern­ment and other rel­e­vant part­ners to ad­dress, not only the wa­ter cri­sis in Pon­tšeng but through­out the coun­try be­cause of the on­go­ing drought sit­u­a­tion.

“Ac­tu­ally, we have what we call the Le­sotho Vul­ner­a­bil­ity As­sess­ment Com­mit­tee which pre­dicts the vul­ner­a­bil­ity of Ba­sotho on an an­nual ba­sis. This body con­ducts as­sess­ments ev­ery year be­tween May and June. Fol­low­ing the last as­sess­ment, it was pre­dicted that 463, 936 Ba­sotho would face a food se­cu­rity cri­sis dur­ing this pe­riod.

“This has trig­gered the govern­ment, through the Disas­ter Man­age­ment Au­thor­ity (DMA), to con­vene us with other stake­hold­ers to come up with a Na­tional Pre­pared­ness and Mit­i­ga­tion Plan to ad­dress, not only the is­sue of the cur­rent wa­ter cri­sis, but the gen­eral haz­ards posed to the coun­try by the drought.”

Mr Nt­sebeng says World Vi­sion has since de­vel­oped its own strat­egy to ad­dress wa­ter cri­sis in Le­sotho, among other things, out of the na­tional plan dis­cussed with other stake­hold­ers.

“We hope that from Fe­bru­ary up to April this year, a thor­ough as­sess­ment will be done and com­plet- ed. And in June we hope, as World Vi­sion, to start work­ing on pro­posed ac­tiv­i­ties to ad­dress the cri­sis,” said Mr Nt­sebeng.

For the govern­ment’s own part, Wa­ter Affairs Min­is­ter Ralechate ’Mokose an­nounced on Tues­day this week that the govern­ment had put aside over M100 mil­lion to ad­dress the wa­ter cri­sis in the coun­try.

Mr ’Mokose said: “Among the things we are go­ing to do to ad­dress this is­sue is to build a dam within the Makhaleng river. The dam is aimed to sup­ply wa­ter to Mafeteng and Mo­hale’s Hoek. We will also buy about 2000 wa­ter tanks to pro­vide clean wa­ter to iden­ti­fied ar­eas across the coun­try.”

Prime Min­is­ter Pakalitha Mo­sisili has since de­clared a state of emer­gency over the drought cri­sis and ap­pealed for help from in­ter­na­tional de­vel­op­ment part­ners.

THIS tiny wa­ter well has served the en­tire Pontseng com­mu­nity since other sources ran dry in Oc­to­ber 2015.

LIVE­STOCK from sur­round­ing vil­lages quench their thirst at this al­most-dry quasi-river.

SEVENTY-YEAR old Nekola Ma­sonko says govern­ment and de­vel­op­ment agen­cies need to in­ter­vene in the wa­ter cri­sis.

IT takes not less than 20 min­utes to fill a 25 litre con­tainer.

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