A city bursting on the seams

A city bursting on the seams

Staff Reporter

MASERU – THE rapid growth of Maseru City caused by increasing rural to urban migration is straining the Water and Sewerage Company (Wasco)’s capacity to provide water and sanitation services.

Less than 10 years ago areas like Sekamaneng, Koalabata and parts of Khubetsoana in the northern part of Maseru were not part of the city.  In the south and south-western areas like Ha-Tsolo, Linakotseng, Ha-Likotsi, Ha-Shelile and Mamenoaneng were not part of the Maseru city.  Now they have become booming suburbs that require water and sanitation services.  The responsibility to provide these services falls on Wasco, a company whose resources have always been under pressure even when the city was much smaller.

The Bureau of Statistics says since 1986 rural to urban migration increased from 11.8 percent to 34.1 percent in 2016, with Maseru being the major recipient of those moving to towns.
In the same period the rural population dropped from 88.2 percent to 58.4 percent.
Between 2010 and 2015 Lesotho’s rate of urbanisation was around 3 percent per year.
Wasco’s capacity has not improved fast enough to sustain such growth in urban population.
Wasco chief executive, Lehlohonolo Manamolela, told thepost this week that the need is so high that if nothing is done urgently the problem will soon get out of hand.

The population of Maseru City has grown from 98 000 in 1986 to 267 000 in 2014.
Wasco has secured funds from the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (BADEA) to conduct a feasibility study and preliminary design for a project called Greater Maseru Water Supply, which aims to supply water to villages on the outskirts of the city and some in the city that have not been connected to the sewage system. Wasco plans to build new water storage tanks at Ha-Makhoathi, Mazenod, Ha-Mabote, Qoaling, Ha-Tšiame and Ha-Foso. Villages of Ha-Foso, Ha-Makhoathi, Ha-Tšiame and Mazenod are not yet part of the Maseru City but they could be soon.

The project also aims to provide portable water and sewage connectivity to further villages like Ha-’Masana in Qeme, Ha-Luka near Moshoeshoe I International Airport, Ha-Tikoe where the Lesotho National Development Corporation (LNDC) is building new factory shells in the south and south-west areas.

Northern villages that are in the plan are Marabeng and Berea. Some people who migrated from rural areas to Maseru have acquired residential sites on the slopes of Qoaling Plateau and Ratjomose Mountain. These also are in the plan for provision of portable water. Other old Maseru villages on high ground like Tšenola and some parts of Ha-Mabote are also in the plan.

Manamolela said the project will need some M300 million to implement.
Manamolela said he is expecting the number of people who need Wasco’s services in the additional villages of the city to grow from the current 77 000 to 93 000 by 2040.
That will increase the water demand from 2.927 cubic metres to 9.373 cubic metre per day.
It is not Maseru City only that strains Wasco’s provision of portable water and sanitation facilities.

Manamolela said other towns also are in dire need of Wasco’s services.
The towns that Wasco has acquired funds to help are Butha-Buthe, Hlotse in the northern part of the country and Mafeteng, Mohale’s Hoek and Qacha’s Nek in the southern parts.
Manamolela said Mafeteng and Mohale’s Hoek will be provided with additional water that will cover even villages in the urban periphery after the construction of Makhaleng Dam which is in the pipeline.

The two towns currently rely on water pumped from the Makhaleng River but the major challenge is that the river often runs dry during heavy drought like last year’s.
The two towns were part of the Five Towns Water Supply Project for which Wasco acquired funds from BADEA, OPEC, Fund for International Development (OFID) and Saudi Fund for Development (SFD) to supply with water.

The project, which will cost about M500 million, will now incorporate Maputsoe after Mohale’s Hoek and Mafeteng have been pulled out. One of the objectives of the project is to make provision for future population growth, according to Manamolela. Manamolela however denied that the continuing cut offs of water in many parts of the country are caused by shortage of water.

He said the country currently has water that can sustain it for the next nine months.
“The cut offs will continue even if we have good rains and our water catchments are full to the brim,” Manamolela said, adding that “water often cuts off because of electricity cut offs”.
He said Wasco uses electricity to pump water to the storage tanks so if there is no electricity the already stored water is finished quickly. He said residents on high ground are the ones who suffer more because even after the electricity problem is dealt with water delays to reach to them.

Manamolela also said the other problem which Wasco is dealing with is maintenance or replacement of old pipes, the majority of which were installed during the pre-independence era. “Many of these pipes leak and we have to continuously repair or replace them,” he said.
“I urge all our customers to faithfully pay their bills so that we can collect enough funds to do this job.”

In its application to Lewa for a tariff increase for the 2016/17 fiscal year Wasco said it operates 16 centres around the country serving 90 797 customers, 6 000 of whom are connected to sewer lines. There are 4 300 domestic prepaid connections, and over 4 400 communal pre-paid token holders.

It said industries and commercial premises, particularly in Maseru, use about 64 percent of the water produced while domestic customers use the rest.
The company also revealed that it has been making losses since 2011 due to increased capital expenditure that is not supported by the controlled annual tariff increases.

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