Amnesty International Calls For Halt To Construction Of Lesotho Dam

24 Feb 2020 by Staff - Water Diplomat
MASERU, Lesotho

NGO Amnesty International has called for a halt to the construction of the Polihali Dam in Lesotho, at least until local communities in the Mokhotlong district have been properly consulted and compensated.

The Polihali Dam is part of the massive Lesotho Highlands Water Project, which is a multi-phased project to provide water to South Africa. It is estimated that nearly 8,000 people in 35 communities will have to be relocated in order to construct roads and other infrastructure.

“As the construction of the Polihali Dam begins with work on the road that leads to the site, people are already being moved out of their homes for resettlement. Others face losing grazing land for their animals, or the loss of wild fruits and medicinal plants from which they earn a living,” Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for East and Southern Africa said.

Access road construction has already commenced and people in the surrounding areas have already been relocated, resulting in loss of private and communal property. Lawyers representing the affected communities claim that the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority, which is owned by the government of Lesotho, has failed to adequately consult and compensate residents in advance. Amnesty International claims that some displaced people have been given the equivalent of just over $1 USD in resettlement compensation.

In addition, the NGO has pointed out that the government of Lesotho has an obligation to maintain its international human rights commitments and, therefore, it must ensure that the dam project does not lead to forced evictions. The international standard upholds that evictions are lawful only if procedural protections are met: adequate notice, fair and just compensation for losses, genuine consultations.

Muchena added: “There must be genuine consultations with the affected communities, and compensation for any losses.”

“South Africa, which will benefit from the new water supply, also has an obligation to ensure that the project complies with human rights while pursuing this water deal,” said Muchena.