Ha Tsolo in leaking water tanks nightmare

WASCO mulls relocating residents

MATHATISI SEBUSI

MASERU – For almost 10 years, some residents of Ha Tsolo have been living in a damp environment resulting from leaking Water and Sewerage Company’s (WASCO) reservoirs supplying water to the Ha Thetsane Industrial Area. WASCO has done little to address the problem over the years. One of the four tanks constructed in 2001 started to leak in 2012 with water streaming into residents’ homes. Since 2012, up to 10 houses have collapsed while the majority of houses in the area are cracked or are continually damp while others have literally turned into wells.

To the relief of some of the residents, government’s Ministry of Water and WASCO this week announced plans to relocate the affected community to a yet to be identified location. The chief accounting officer revealed this before the Senate’s Petitions Committee after being grilled this week over the Ha Tsolo residents’ grievances tabled before the Upper House of parliament. He appeared before the Senate Petitions Committee that was interrogating his Ministry and WASCO on the communities’ grievances.

The community wrote to the Senate Petitions Committee asking for an intervention alleging that they have consulted all stakeholders they hoped would help address the challenge but none helped them. Assuring the families of an end to their plight Principal Secretary in the water ministry, Malefetsane Nchaka, acknowledged they have been aware of the challenges posed by the leaking reservoirs to the resident.

Nchaka said they are currently working on short term solutions to the problem to ensure that people are safe and able to live comfortably while “we work on a long term solution which is relocation.” “We have thus far temporarily repositioned one family which had been enormously affected by the leaking tank, with the ministry paying the family’s M700 rent, M300 for electricity M800 in compensation for the money they earned monthly from their property,” he said.

Nchaka added that there have been measures put in place to temporarily redirect and control the flow of the water into the residential area. He told the petitions committee that the first time he heard about the leaking reservoirs was when their technical team recommended construction of boreholes around the leaking tanks. He said three 40-metre boreholes were subsequently sunk indicating, however, that this move failed to address the problem as water kept streaming down to the village.

Nchaka noted that the ministry’s plans to relocate the affected families are afoot, with a proposal already forwarded to the Ministry of Development Planning. A committee compromising technicians from the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority, WASCO and the water ministry has been set up to attend to the problem, and as soon as work is complete a report will be compiled to inform a budget proposal to immediately be submitted to the Ministry of Finance.

“Our plan is to relocate the affected families. Our technical team has recommended that relocation is a better solution to this problem as the place is no longer safe for the community. All we are waiting for now is a report from the committee. After that we will also engage property evaluators so that we are able to make a budget for the project,” he noted.

He said from the onset the ministry has been working with community members to resolve their grievances, including the Ward Councilor and other community leaders to ensure that all affected people are covered. Acting CEO at WASCO, Tšukulu Phafoli, echoed Nchaka’s sentiments on plans to relocate the community as part of the short term responses WASCO is currently implementing.

He added that for a long-term solution, they have to carefully consider a solution that will address all challenges faced by people that reside next to all WASCO reservoirs. WASCO has 56 tanks around the country, he said, and four of them are leaking, while dwellings have encroached sites in which others have been built – which might pose a problem when they have to be cleaned.

He said one of the challenges that WASCO faces is that not all reservoirs in question have been built by them, pointing out that some were handed to the entity as gifts and the company has to now shoulder the responsibility of their inadequacies.

Phafoli pointed out that government has taken it upon itself to secure technical teams that design and oversee the construction of reservoirs, though in most constructions they did not have a say or an input in their design and construction. ’Manku Molefi, aged 41, is one of the villagers affected by the leaking tank. She says she built a two-roomed house in 2003 in the area – a project she failed to complete because water was already seeping in even before construction was completed.

She said the following year her house collapsed, and as a result she was forced to build a shack with the corrugated sheets she had intended to roof her house. Molefi is unemployed and has been living in the shack with her child since 2003. Speaking to this publication, she said in 2014, WASCO gave each affected family M1 800 to repair the destruction that had been caused by the water but due to the severity of the damage the water has done to her house, she was unable to rebuild it.

She is one of the community members that no longer feel safe living in the area and wants to be relocated. She, however, wants WASCO to relocate her to a place with business opportunities because she claims to have bought the site at Ha Tsolo because of its closeness to the industrial area. The Chief of Ha Tsolo, Tshabalala Tshabalala, told the Senate that they reported the water leakage to WASCO in 2012 but to date no satisfactory action has been taken to address their situation.

He said they even contacted NGOs and the parliamentary committee on natural resources – which all failed to help them, adding that as of today about 10 houses have collapsed while many are cracked.

The Senate Petitions Committee directed the Ministry of Water and WASCO to ensure that they effectively and immediately attended to the communities’ grievances and urged all stakeholders to provide regular updates on progress in the relocation of the community.

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