Polihali Dam Construction Commences.

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Polihali Dam Construction is underway in the outskirts of Maseru, Lesotho, with its main purpose to transfer water from Lesotho to South Africa.

The Polihali dam is being constructed by a consortium consisting of two Chinese companies, one South African company, and one Lesotho-based company. This $420 million project is financed by the South African government and serves the dual purpose of generating electricity for Lesotho while transferring water to Gauteng, South Africa’s most populous province, which already heavily relies on water imports from Lesotho.

However, local communities claim they are bearing a heavy burden as a result of this venture. During the launch of the dam’s construction by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and Lesotho’s King Letsie III, locals attempted to voice their protests with placards, only to have them confiscated by the army.

The dam project falls under the jurisdiction of the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority (LHDA), which previously oversaw the construction of the Katse and Mohale dams, catering to South Africa’s water needs. Last year alone, the Lesotho government received 1.4 billion maloti (approximately $75 million) in royalties from South Africa for these water transfers, with the potential for further earnings once Polihali is completed by 2027.

Effects Of The Polihali Dam Construction On The People Of Lesotho.

As construction commences on the new dam, local residents’ grievances remain largely unresolved, with the primary concern being fair compensation for land acquisition.

Lebohang Lengoasa, a representative of Polihali residents, explains that during talks with the LHDA, residents demanded compensation spanning their lifetime or fixed for a period between 70 and 99 years. They argue that the dam will deprive Basotho highlanders of access to their lands for economic activities such as farming and animal rearing for the remainder of their lives.

However, the LHDA’s offer of compensation covers only half of the residents’ requested duration. Gerard Mokone, the LHDA’s Polihali operations manager, defends this decision, stating that the 50-year compensation policy was already applied in the project’s initial phase completed 20 years ago. Despite varying opinions from affected individuals, the project is not obliged to accommodate all of them.

The LHDA’s unilateral decision regarding compensation has deeply angered the affected communities, leading to potential legal action. Mothusi Seqhee, the national coordinator of the nonprofit organization Sold — Survivors of Lesotho Dams, reveals that they are joining forces with other groups to sue the LHDA over this matter.

Also read South Africa to construct two dams in KwaZulu-Natal.

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