Drought takes its toll

Drought takes its toll

MASERU – VAN Rooyen residents in Mafeteng district heaved a sigh of relief two weeks ago after the Lesotho Revenue Authority (LRA) handed over a water tap.
Residents said they had been travelling long distances on donkeys and scotch-carts pulled by oxen to fetch water at an unprotected well.
The nearest neighbouring village from which they fetched water is about three kilometres away.

They would go to the village at dawn, only to find residents there already in long queues with empty buckets waiting for their turn to get the much-needed water.
Sometimes they would come back home just before sunset if queues are too long, while the elderly and the sick depended on the young and able-bodied ones to fetch water for them.
To make matters worse, the water from the neighbouring village was bought at a cost of M1 for 20 litres, just enough for domestic chores.
Bathing and washing meant extra cash and labour for poor families.

The Van Rooyen chief, Themba Maphathe, said the tap would come in handy.
“Our elderly people, especially those without children, and the sick ones were the ones most hard hit by lack of water in the village,” the chief said.
The crisis in Van Rooyen vividly captures the challenges Basotho are facing as drought takes its toll in Lesotho.

The crisis in Van Rooyen is just the tip of the iceberg, as communities across the country struggle daily with massive shortages of water.
The water crisis in the country has been taking a toll this year due to poor rains.

The government-owned Water and Sewerage Company (WASCO) released a statement last week on the drought-induced water crisis.
The company said levels of water in its reservoirs have dropped in all the districts because of the drought.
Butha-Buthe, Maputsoe, Leribe, Mapoteng, Quthing and Mohale’s Hoek are the hardest hit towns.

In most towns across the country, authorities have indicated that there will be water rationing starting this month.
Mosuoe Letuma, the Principal Meteorologist at Lesotho Meteorological Services (LSM), said the late rains experienced could be a result of the El Nino weather phenomena.
“The impact of this weak El Nino is not as severe as anticipated or as compared with the 2015/2016 El Nino,” Letuma said.
“It is not bad at all, but it does not mean it cannot give effect to the current situation,” he said.

Letuma said according to a three-month weather forecast, the country will experience normal rainfall between December 2017 and February this year.
However, the south-western part of the country is expected to experience below normal rainfall while the north-eastern areas are expected to experience above normal rainfall.
This might turn out to be good news to the districts on the north-eastern parts of the country especially Leribe, Berea and Butha-Buthe.
The District Administrator of Butha-Buthe, Lehlohonolo Qhasho, said water continues to be a problem and villages uphill such as Phaphama, Lerallaneng and Likileng are suffering because the Moroeroe reservoir is running low.

In a press release, WASCO stated that in the towns of Teya-Teyaneng, Morija, Roma and Maseru water supply is stable because the Metolong reservoir level is satisfactory.
WASCO said areas within the capital city such as Moshoeshoe II, Maseru East, Maqalika and Selakhapane, which are serviced by the Maseru Water Supply Treatment Plant, are experiencing inconsistent supplies.

This is due to inadequate flow in the Caledon River and WASCO has since resorted to the use of the Maqalika reservoir, which at times is unable to meet demand.
WASCO said it has implemented a number of measures to save water.

These include finding and repairing burst and leaking pipes, improved response times for burst and leaking pipes complaints, replacing old and ageing water infrastructure, as well as rehabilitation of the supply network.

“Other measures taken during this season include requests for water releases into the Tšehlanyane River from the Lesotho Highlands Water Project and water flow diversion at some of the raw water sources like the Qomo-Qomong River in Quthing and ’Maletsunyane in Semonkong,” said WASCO in the statement.
WASCO said people should adopt efficient use of water practices such as using buckets to wash cars, using watering cans for gardening, attending to dripping pipelines in their homes and using a cup in the kitchen or bathroom when drinking and brushing teeth.

The Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) released a statement on November 21 stating that El Niño impact is becoming worse.
FAO said it has begun preparing to assist farmers for the upcoming planting season.

A workshop held recently in Johannesburg resulted in the development of a sub-regional response action plan. The plan will strengthen the capacity of FAO Country Offices to support governments and other partners in responding to the impact of the El Niño phenomena.
This action will minimise the risk posed by El Nino to food security and livelihoods of vulnerable households and communities in southern Africa.

Tokase Mphutlane & Rose Moremoholo

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