SRT grantee the Seinoli Legal Centre has produced a  film which details the potential impact of a large-scale water-transfer project on local communities in Lesotho.

The Lesotho-Botswana Water Transfer Scheme is being conducted within an agreement between the governments of Lesotho, Botswana, and South Africa. A dam will be constructed along the Makhaleng river in the southern lowlands of Lesotho. The project will supply Botswana with water through a conveyance water pipeline going through South Africa. It will further provide the three countries with electricity to complement the system power needs of the local towns in the countries.

The Seinoli Legal Centre has consulted the 21 communities along the river, to determine their awareness of the project and the potential impact. They have produced a film from their conversations with these locals, which gives a stark look at their rural way of life, and what is at stake for them.

The Seinoli Legal Centre reported two key findings. Firstly, that no official communication has been made to the communities regarding the project which indicates that the principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent has not been applied. And secondly, the standards of living and livelihoods of communities living along the river will be greatly affected, as they will be forced to resettle to make way for the dam, losing their land and the surrounding natural resources. They voiced concerns on many aspects, from what would happen to their animals, to what would happen to their graves. However, the main concern for most of the residents interviewed is that being so heavily reliant on agriculture, animal rearing and a rural way of life, many were not formally educated and didn’t feel equipped to live elsewhere.

Mamatlakala Lefume, a 68 year-old who lives in Ha Joele village, said; “We have fields that are our main source of livelihood. There are no schools nearby for our children to attend, we heavily rely on agricultural land… We plead with implementing authorities that compensation for our lost fields should be made payable for a lifetime.”

Another interviewee from the same village added that he felt “anxious about relocating to a new place, where our ways of living may be seen as odd”.

After making this film, the Seinoli Legal Centre has called on the project authorities to ensure that members of communities to be affected are put at the center of this project and that their rights and interests are respected.

The Seinoli Legal Centre is a public interest legal organisation that protects the rights of communities affected by the construction of dams and large infrastructure in Lesotho.