Lesotho Highlands Water Project, Lesotho

Phase II of the project is starting and there is no certitude affected population's concerns will be taken into account. Failures of phase I risk to be repeated.


The Lesotho Highlands Water Project involved the construction of five dams and over 200 km (124 miles) of tunnels. These dams supplied power for Lesotho and water to the Republic of South Africa. The project was supported by the World Bank in partnership with Impregilo, an Italian company accused of corruption in 2004. At the start of the project, 3,000 hectares of arable land and 1,000 hectares of pasture land were flooded. Local communities did not receive economic compensation and the project worsened their already precarious living conditions.

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Basic Data
NameLesotho Highlands Water Project, Lesotho
ProvinceLeribe and Thaba-Tseka
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Water Management
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Dams and water distribution conflicts
Land acquisition conflicts
Specific CommoditiesWater
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsThe project involves the construction of 5 dams, a network of 200 km of tunnels and pipelines, and a hydroelectric plant.

The Katse dam is 185 meters high, and the pipeline is 48 kilometres long. The reservoir has 350 million tons of water.

There were 95 tremors in 16 months (1995-1996).

In 2016, the project enters its second phase which includes the construction of a reservoir (Polihali), and a hydropower generation station whose energy will be delivered to South Africa. The completion is expected to be acheived by 2023 [1] and its costs will reach at least $US 1.9 billion [2].
Project Area (in hectares)15000
Type of PopulationRural
Start Date1986
Company Names or State EnterprisesSacyr from Spain
Lahmeyer International from Germany
Spie Batignolles from France
Salini Impregilo from Italy
Relevant government actorsLesotho Government, Botswana and South Africa governments, Lesotho Highlands Development Authority (LHDA)
International and Financial InstitutionsThe World Bank (WB) from United States of America
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersPopulation of Basotho (Bantou people), Transformation Resource Center, Khabang Lejone Multipurpose Cooperative
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)HIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Social movements
Forms of MobilizationInvolvement of national and international NGOs
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Potential: Air pollution, Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Food insecurity (crop damage), Global warming, Noise pollution, Soil erosion, Waste overflow, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Health ImpactsVisible: Accidents, Deaths
Potential: Malnutrition
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Increase in violence and crime
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCorruption
Criminalization of activists
Violent targeting of activists
Development of AlternativesThey dont want the construction of the new dams,the old ones should be dismantled and the area restored.
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.Two dams were built and it is planed to built three dams more.
Sources and Materials

PIPE DREAMS- The World Banks Failed Efforts to Restore Lives and Livehoods of Dam-Affect People in Lesotho. International Transport Workers Federation. (Ed.) International Rivers Network, 2001
[click to view]

Conservation, Ecology, and Management of African Fresh Waters. Crisman, Thomas L.; Chapman, Lauren J.; Chapman, Colin A.; Kaufman, Les S. (Ed.) University Press of Florida. 2003

THE irony of the white gold. Akindele, Femi; Senyane, Relebohile. (Ed.) Transformation resource center, 2004
[click to view]

In the high Court of Lesotho, Khabang Lejone judgment, 10/09/2015
[click to view]


Lesotho Highlands Water Project
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Lesotho Highlands Water Project offical webpage
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Lesotho Water Project, International Rivers
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Botswana cuts deal for water from Lesotho Highlands Water Project, L. Frankson, 26/11/2015
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Calls for Bidders for Phase 2 of Lesotho Highlands Water Project, 01/07/2015
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[2] LESOTHO: Dam-building continues despite controversy, IRIN, November 2011
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[1] Lesotho Highlands Water Project – Phase II, Lesotho to South Africa
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Villagers take on mighty LHDA, 24/07/2015
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Other Documents

Dam part of the Lesotho Water Project Source: http://constructionreviewonline.com
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The US$1.5 billion Mohale dam IRIN, Christopher MacLean
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorLucie Greyl
Last update04/01/2016