Villagers want better compensation package

Villagers want better compensation package

MASERU – A civic association is lobbying MPs to support it in a fight to amend the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP)’s compensation policy.
Survivors of Lesotho Dams (SOLD) told a press conference yesterday that a parliament portfolio committee responsible for natural resources pledged to support it. The policy LHWP used to pay damages to communities moved to make way for Katse and Mohale Dams says those affected will be compensated for 50 years.

SOLD says 50 years is too short. The association says compensation for resettled communities and others who were affected but were not moved from their homes should be for a lifetime. SOLD held the press conference after a meeting with a parliamentary committee.

The meeting with local MPs came barely a month after SOLD approached a portfolio committee of the South African parliament with the same issue.
The South African parliament pledged to visit Lesotho soon to verify SOLD’s allegations. SOLD is supported by the Transformation Resources Centre (TRC), an ecumenical organisation advocating for human rights, in its fight to claim rights for communities affected by the building of dams.

SOLD is also warning the Lesotho and South African governments that the construction of Polihali Dam in Mokhotlong, under the second phase of the LHWP, is “likely to repeat the wrongs of the first phase”.

The LHWP which supplies water to Gauteng is a joint project between Lesotho and South Africa. Water from the Mohale Dam is tunnelled to the Katse reservoir and it is going to be so with the water from Polihali Dam, whose construction is expected to start next year.
Lesotho benefits through the generation of hydropower and water royalties from South Africa.

SOLD says much as the project is beneficial to the two countries, “it should not be at the expense of the wellbeing of the Basotho communities in areas around the dams or the proposed dams”. SOLD’s National Coordinator, Lenka Thamae, said they told the Committee that the community was not satisfied with 50 years as the compensation period.

Thamae said they have hope in the committee because its members “were also surprised that people are being compensated for 50 years after being moved from their homes”.

Thamae said they pleaded with the committee led by Mpalipali Molefe to visit some of the communities affected by the project.
He said the committee seemed interested and promised that they will visit those places.
“We are not going to sit down but will make sure that the committee does as it promised,” Thamae said.

Khapane Mohlomi, SOLD’s organiser, said some of the people were resettled in areas that had no water or electricity.
Mohlomi gave an example of people who used to live at Ha Ntsi, in Nazareth, whom he said were moved to a place that had no water.
He said those people fetched water from the well that was made by the project but the water is not enough due to the way that the well was constructed.

’Makhotso Rakotsoane

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