Developments like dam constructions should bring better prospects of life for host communities, however this is not the case for the Katse communities whose lives have been eroded by the construction of the Katse dam. The dam was constructed in 1989 as a binational project between Lesotho and South Africa which was administered by the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority (LHDA) in the highlands of Lesotho which is predominantly rural in character and where poverty is inevitable and intense.

Prior to the implementation, 88 villages that were settled in the area were hopeful that this project would help them attain better and improved living standards as they were promised jobs and compensation in the form of cash for assets that would be affected and ancillary developments in their community and a resettlement programme for people whose houses would have to be relocated, all of which the project authority never met.

Instead, this community which depended on subsistence agriculture as the main source of livelihood incurred a loss of arable, grazing land, houses, graves, forests, medicinal plants and other indigenous plants, cultural roots and control of their natural resources to the project.

The existence of the Katse dam has shown more dissatisfaction by the community. The community says before the dam everything was plentiful, firewood, fertile river banks, cropland, good pastures and peace of mind but now they endure hard lives. “Today is different, we are poorer than before because many promises were made by the project authority but never met and this has resulted to the communities being seriously poverty- stricken”. Malibuseng Bosiu says in an interview.

The existence of the Katse dam has resulted to involuntary resettlement, loss of land for food and livestock production, loss of housing and related property, loss of social and physical infrastructure, loss of bio-diversity promotion of seismic activity and changes in the environment, the loss of social morality and social networks all of which have disrupted the lives and livelihoods of the dam impacted communities and subject them to risks and high vulnerability for sustainable livelihoods. The dam impacted areas had also retained a high scourge of STDs and HIV/AIDS during and after the dam construction phases which were brought about by dam operations and immigrant workers.

During Phase 1A of the Katse dam, about 1 900 hectares of arable land was lost, which also affected about 2, 345 households. Further loss of land of about 1, 000 hectares of arable land was added which affected 1 000 households. The lost grazing land as a result of Katse, ‘Muela, and Mohale was 5 000 hectares jointly. Other losses during Phase 1A were 3 000 trees and 17 hectares of garden land. The community also lost about 3, 000 trees, and 17 hectares of garden land. Maize and pulses were mainly given out as compensation for lost arable land during Phase 1A, while cash could be considered during Phase 1B.

Villagers from Ha Kostable claim they lost their trees and reed to the dam and were promised compensation but that was never fulfilled. The resettlement programme was a failure as far as reconstruction of the livelihoods of the resettled communities and households were concerned.
The plight of the community goes beyond material necessities, extending to “lost family ties”, the dam has separated many communities that once closely interacted with one another through physical, social and economic linkages that connected them.

The communities relayed highly on fishery, the fish they caught they ate in their own households and some they would sell locally in small batches but now fishing has become restricted by LHDA. They are required to apply for fishing permits which only enables them to catch only two fish per day per person and that they also be of specified size (fish should be the size of a ruler). Without the fishing permits they are arrested and their fish catches are confiscated. This they saw as a grave injustice where fish that they had always had free access to for generations were now inaccessible to them whilst the fishing companies could draw the fish from the dam in their droves.

The villagers lamented that LHDA has also forsaken them by reneging on its promises made in 1987 when the construction of the Katse dam started. The disgruntled villagers want compensation for their fields and houses that were cover by the dam. The few “lucky” ones who have received payments are also very unhappy about the paltry amount. They were also promised ancillary developments like roads, electricity and Health facilities, improvement of schools but that has not been fulfilled.