The ultimate humiliation

The ultimate humiliation

. . . as man and beast drink from the same pool

LERIBE – ’MAKHATHOLISANE Letsoela broke her leg as she competed for water with animals.
In her village, people and animals share water sources – a hazard to both their health and physical safety.
Letsoela tried to flee as a thirsty herd of cattle rushed to the pond she was fetching water from.

She slipped; fell on her knee and the stampeding herd trampled on her as they made a beeline for the pond.
It is survival of the fittest between animals and humans as they fight to access water at the village’s only source in Tsikoane Ha-Potloane in Leribe district.
Letsoela says she is not angry that she broke her leg. She cannot fathom that authorities allow a situation where residents in her village and surrounding areas have to share water sources with animals.

She says this has been the case for the past 16 years, although the droughts of recent years have worsened the situation. Hlotsenyana River, their source of water, is running dry.
The villagers, together with their livestock, are forced to depend on small ponds as the river dries up.
To make matters worse, the ponds are polluted by used baby disposable diapers that are always seen floating above the water.
Human waste is also washed up by occasional rains end up in the ponds.

“We have no option but to take a stick and push the diapers aside so that we fetch water from the pond,” Letsoela says.
Letsoela says she arrived in Ha-Potloane in 2002 and “already the village was suffering from a serious shortage of water”.
She says they would have water for two months before boreholes broke down and then villagers would be forced to wait for months before repairs. The cycle has continued.
“When the water is available, we have to collect as much as we can because we don’t know when we will be without it,” she says.

She says for the first time since 2002, villagers are depending on a single pond that is contaminated by human waste.
Letsoela says she has not seen the effects of the dirty water on adults, but has observed that it causes diarrhoea and rash in children.
Limping and leaning on a stick, Letsoela is talking to thepost as she walks home from the pond.

She looks up for signs of rain. There is no indication that it will rain anytime soon.
Her prayer now is that the government urgently repairs the borehole in the area.
For now, villagers have to do with dirty water which they try to purify by pouring cement into their buckets.
“It traps the unwanted pollutants and silt at the bottom,” says Letsoela.

Another villager, ’Manaptjoane Naptjoane, fears hunger will worsen.
“Crops in our gardens have withered and dried and livestock in our kraals have died,” she says.
There are hardly any crops to talk about when one walks around the village.
The only borehole in the area has broken down.

When the borehole is functioning, the water is reddish in colour and residents wonder if it is safe to drink.
“But we have to because we have no option,” says Naptjoane.
Minister of Water Affairs Samonyane Ntsekele, who is also the MP for Tsikoane, went to Ha-Potloane last week to assess the situation.
Ntsekele said he has known “for a long time now” of the plight of the villagers.

“The small budget is contributing to the delay of developments in this area,” Ntsekele said.
Ntsekele said government plans to fix boreholes in Hlotsenyane and pipelines from Mohokare River.
The government also plans to build 639 toilets in the area so that underground water is not contaminated by human waste, according to Ntsekele.
“Very soon the contractors will finish fixing the pipelines and boreholes,” he said.

“Water will be available for 12 hours every day and then as time goes on it will available for 24 hours,” said the minister.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), implementation of plans and policies for urban and rural water and sanitation has been slow in Lesotho.
The country’s water and sanitation policy of 2007 states that: “Basotho are entitled to have access to a sustainable supply of potable water and to the provision of basic sanitation services at an affordable cost”.

The policy indicates that a Mosotho has a right to 3 000 litres of water per month, but mechanisms for implementing this policy are not in place.
The WHO states that the right to basic sanitation is also outlined in the policy, but it is not clearly defined.
There is, however, a drive towards improving access to both water and sanitation, although access for all will take a long time to achieve.
WHO said Lesotho has taken many steps to ensure sustainable services.

For example, the emptying service for the latrines and conservancy tanks has been outsourced to private operators and the contents are being disposed at the WASCO’s WWTW in order to ensure adequate treatment and safe disposal.

The WHO states that additionally, a hydraulic modeling exercise has been undertaken and a variety of cost effective options have been developed.
These will inform operational decisions in the future as local authorities increase their capacity to take over the operations and maintenance of community systems.
Implementation of the Maseru Wastewater project, which is piloting the provision of on-site sanitation facilities for the urban poor, is another sign of efforts to combat the problem, according to WHO. But for Letsoela and other villagers in areas such as Tsikoane Ha-Potloane, all this will only begin to make sense once water begins to flow.

’Makhotso Rakotsoane

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