Polihali Dam to displace thousands

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 09 Nov 2011

More than 2500 Basothos will be removed to make way for the giant Polihali Dam in the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP), Water Affairs Minister Edna Molewa said on Wednesday.

Displacement: 72 villages; 3132 households; 16,560 people - to provide Gauteng with adequate water supply.

In a written reply to a parliamentary question, she said the removals would be handled by the Lesotho government.

“[A] feasibility study identified about 2550 people, from 17 villages, that may need to be relocated,” she said.

“The Lesotho government has handled this kind of a project before… and we are confident that even in this instance they will handle it with the necessary duty and care.”

Molewa said phase two of the project, being built to ensure an adequate supply of water for South Africa’s economic heartland of Gauteng, would be completed in nine years.

“The implementation of phase two will… ensure continued water availability for these socio-economically growing areas from the Vaal system to meet current and projected demands at adequate assurance of supply until about 2045,” she said.

The second phase includes construction of the 2.2 billion cubic metre capacity Polihali Dam in Lesotho’s Mokhotlong district.

According to the website of the Lesotho Highlands Development Agency (LHDA), in a section titled “resettlement”, the reservoir formed by the Polihali Dam will displace far more than just 2457 people from 17 villages.

It says the huge lake will also submerge the fields and grazing lands of a further 16,560 villagers. “Other assets affected by reservoir (fields and grazing): 72 villages affected, 3132 households [and] 16,560 people.”

A “summary of communities’ assets lost to dam and inundation” lists houses, rondavels, kraals, business facilities, a church and a school.

According to the LHDA, the total cost of phase two of the LHWP is R15.4 billion, including building the Polihali Dam, tunnels, pump-storage facilities and power lines.

It says the “social costs” of the project amounts to R363 million.

– Sapa

1 thought on “Polihali Dam to displace thousands

  1. The World Bank estimates that forcible “development-induced displacement and resettlement” now affects 10 million people per year. According to the World Bank an estimated 33 million people have been displaced by development projects such as dams, urban development and irrigation canals in India alone.

    India is well ahead in this respect. A country with as many as over 3600 large dams within its belt can never be the exceptional case regarding displacement. The number of development induced displacement is higher than the conflict induced displacement in India. According to Bogumil Terminski an estimated more than 10 million people have been displaced by development each year.

    Athough the exact number of development-induced displaced people (DIDPs) is difficult to know, estimates are that in the last decade 90–100 million people have been displaced by urban, irrigation and power projects alone, with the number of people displaced by urban development becoming greater than those displaced by large infrastructure projects (such as dams). DIDPs outnumber refugees, with the added problem that their plight is often more concealed.

    This is what experts have termed “development-induced displacement.” According to Michael Cernea, a World Bank analyst, the causes of development-induced displacement include water supply (dams, reservoirs, irrigation); urban infrastructure; transportation (roads, highways, canals); energy (mining, power plants, oil exploration and extraction, pipelines); agricultural expansion; parks and forest reserves; and population redistribution schemes.

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