Impact assessment for Lesotho highlands water project and sustainable livelihoods: a case study of community around Katse Dam
Skefu, Nontosfane Lucy
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Massive water developments bring about change to the physical arrangement of the relevant areas and the local people as well. Water projects are not immune to this characteristic. Their existence is as important as that of the species, including human beings, found in their area of existence. Unpacking the whole concept of how water projects affect local people is an important approach to gaining a full understanding of the relationship between water infrastructure and sustainable livelihoods of local communities. This study aimed at investigating the impact of and extent to which the Lesotho Highlands Water Project contributes towards sustaining the livelihoods of the project-affected communities in the rural areas of Lesotho, especially in the Katse and Lejone areas. Specifically, the intention was to assess the impact of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project on the communities residing adjacent to the Katse Dam. It further determined whether the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority is meaningfully contributing to the socio-economic livelihoods of the dam-based communities. The information pertaining to the objectives of the study was generated from the field through questionnaires that were administered by the researcher. Respondents from five villages in the areas of Katse and Lejone were asked to comment on issues including their perceptions about the dam construction, risks facing them, improved service provision (available facilities) and their livelihood strategies after the dam was constructed in their area. Upon completion of that, a data sheet was drawn and thereafter entered into the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences-Version 17 so as to derive meanings and draw some conclusions. This research revealed that the Lesotho Highlands Water Project duly has an impact on the sustainable livelihoods of the Katse and Lejone communities. The Katse Dam has had both a negative and a positive influence on local inhabitants. It further revealed that as a positive impact, the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority contributed meaningfully to the socio-economic wellness of the community based at the Katse Dam. There is convincing evidence that in some instances, the living conditions of people in the Katse and Lejone areas have improved. Care should be taken that this effect is more noticeable on a much more general note that when considering individuals. The research findings further disclose that the Lesotho Highlands Water Project has a negative impact on people as it poses multiple hazards, ranging among others landlessness for crops production, burial sites, food insecurity, poverty, inaccessibility to common goods including forests together with indigenous plants which supports their livelihoods, grazing areas for animals, movement restriction to neighbouring villages, as well as isolation from relatives on the other side of the dam. In conclusion, the use of the Sustainable Livelihoods Framework (SLF) particularly the asset analysis helped in identifying the assets of the affected communities. It made it easy to identify some of the assets that local people hold dearly and those that contribute towards sustaining their livelihoods. Thereafter, an analysis of the impact of the dam in terms of such assets was done. The analysis showed that the negative impacts presented earlier on are tangible and that calls for immediate remedial action to allay the fears of the Katse and Lejone communities and the Basotho people at large, because an injury to one is an injury to all. It is therefore highly recommended that development planners formulate and devise policies and regulations that alleviate devastating effects on people affected by the water project.