Climate change drying up Lesotho water sources



MASERU – Lesotho’s water sources are slowly drying out due to the effects of climate change the country has been experiencing in recent years, Minister of Water Khaku Kabi has warned. Kabi warned if no action is taken, Basotho will not only lose their livelihoods or depend on imported bottled water for survival but will also lose the royalties they get from water that flows to South Africa.

Kabi said this during a panel discussion on Integrated Catchment Management project that Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro will launch today. The project is an initiative of the government of Lesotho jointly funded by European Union (EU) and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Co-operation and Development.

It seeks to promote the sustainable management of land, water and natural resources through application of a climate-resilient integrated management approach. The project envisions an integrated planning for the management of land, water and natural resources in the catchment areas of Lesotho to improve economic development and livelihoods.

Kabi further observed that if Lesotho does not rehabilitate its land and water sources, Basotho most of whom survive mostly on farming could lose their livelihoods as their crops and livestock will not survive in the absence of water and grass.

“We have lately been experiencing heavy rain flows and water flows that stopped immediately after the rain stopped. This is because our land and wetlands have depleted and are unable to hold water for some time.

“Because of this, the flow of water to our rivers and dams has been affected which as a result is affecting royalties the country gets from South Africa. Agricultural production has also been affected.

“Most Basotho survive on farming, without water and grass their source of income and means of survival will be badly affected. If no action is taken, there will come a point when we will depend on imported commodities, and only those who can afford will survive,” he said.

He said the project comes at a very right time when Basotho need to rehabilitate their land and water sources, adding the project will help Lesotho with efforts it already has in place meant to rehabilitate water sources and land.

Kabi noted that the government has initiated poverty alleviation projects that mostly focus on land and water sources rehabilitation but there is no visible progress due to lack of follow-up on the projects. He said scarcity of funds has been restricting the government to follow up on the progress of a lot of land rehabilitation projects that were implemented in different areas of the country.

Deputy Minister in the Ministry of Forestry, Range and Soil Conservation, Motlohi Maliehe, said the government through ministry of forestry has been conducting land and water sources rehabilitation projects but Basotho did not show much interest in the projects.

He said Lesotho is in dire strain as land is depleting under its watch. The funds from development partners, he said, will respond to the needed intervention to ensure that water sources and land are rehabilitated and well looked after. He noted that his ministry will work together with other ministries to ensure the success of the project and, among others, will harmonise land legislations.

“We are preparing to table the Range Management Bill in Parliament. Currently we are using the old Range Management Act of 1969,” he said. Maliehe noted that with the amendment of Range Management Act, the country will be able to put in place laws and regulations that will ensure that environment is protected. Lesotho’s biggest problem is degradation of wetlands and rangelands, he noted.

Among the panelists included the Lesotho Councils of Non-Governmental Organizations (LCN)’s Executive Director Seabata Motsamai who noted that legal instruments should be harmonised in order to win the fight against land degradation.

He said this will allow decentralisation of services and give community leaders legal authority to be guardians of the country’s natural resources. Motsamai further noted that the country needs to have accurate data of its wetlands so that policy makers can be sure of how many water sources Lesotho needs to protect and how.

“Having data on water sources will help us know how many water sources need to be looked after. Currently we have a few and are under pressure because of climate change the country has been experiencing. “As a country we also need awareness programmes on protection of natural resources. Infrastructure developers should also be mindful of natural resources when doing their job. The sad thing is that Basotho still consider developments better than natural resources,” he said.

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