Potential impacts of the Lesotho-Botswana Water Transfer Scheme.

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Impacts of large development projects on women.

While large development infrastructures can potentially generate great economic benefits for a country, they bring with them considerable socio-economic, cultural, and environmental risks to host communities, particularly to women.

In Lesotho, Phase I of LHWP had devastating challenges for women. Many thousands lost their homes as a result of the construction of the Katse dam, while others were driven deeper into poverty due to inadequate and delayed compensations, deprivation of means of livelihood as well as access to basic amenities such as access to clean water, health centers, electricity, and land.

Phase II of the LHWP project, which entails the construction of a 165m Polihali dam and a 38km water transfer tunnel running to connect the Polihali with Katse reservoir, within the Mokhotlong district, is currently being implemented. About 1,104 women are being affected by advanced infrastructure works, ahead of the actual construction of the dam. Most affected women have not only lost land through which they generate means of livelihood but they have also not been compensated by LHDA, for such losses.

LHDA’s application and/ or implementation of the LHWP Phase II Compensation Policy, particularly in the compensation disbursement process, is the main cause of this problem. The application ensures that women do not become beneficiaries of compensation, but their husbands as acclaimed heads of household, to whom compensation shall be paid on behalf of the household. This leaves women and children in vulnerable positions and drives them deep into poverty, because whether or not they share in the compensation solely depends on the mood and character of the individual (the husband) assuming absolute custody and control of the money.

Surprisingly, LHDA follows this application even where spouses have separated, legally or otherwise. Mrs. Manako Lethari’s story sufficiently narrates this position. It also gives a clear picture of how this application exacerbates gender inequality and women’s economic marginalization.

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