Urban water provision in Maseru (Lesotho): a geographical analysis
Water is the most important of all basic needs, and is fundamental to all vital processes of value to mankind. However, statistics indicate that of all the water available on earth, only a limited fraction is available for human consumption. With the growing world population, there is increasing demand for water worldwide. The situation is even more complicated in cities of the developing world that are characterised by rapid population growth while the economic status is low. This often results in the demand for water growing faster than the ability to supply. Urban population expansion in the developing world therefore further complicates the challenge of water provision. This is a very critical issue because failure to meet the water demands of cities can put people’s lives at risk. The main challenge therefore is to develop appropriate policies that guide water provision. This is also the situation in Lesotho. Like other developing countries, Lesotho’s population has been growing at an alarming rate. Most of the growth has been happening in the capital city Maseru, which absorbs a high share of the country’s urban population. However, the fast rate of urbanisation in Lesotho, particularly in Maseru has not been coupled with the necessary expansion of water supply systems, thereby causing pressure of the existing system. WASA the body that is charged with the responsibility of urban water supply in Lesotho has since its formulation generally failed to meet its obligation. This is as a result of ineffective policies that were put in place to guide the authority. About half of the population within WASA’s area of designation are still unserved. Several policy related issues have resulted in this. Firstly, the subsidisation of water by disallowing price increases. Secondly, the supply of free water through public standpipes, and thirdly the false assumption that the poor cannot afford to pay even the minimum charge for water. These issues have not only resulted in financial instability to WASA thus hindering service expansion, but have also resulted in denial of service to the poor while the rich enjoyed low cost service. Empirical examination of the situation on water provision in Maseru has further confirmed the issues discussed above. From a policy perspective it is therefore imperative tha t water supply services are expanded and improved to be financially viable.