By Liapeng Raliengoane
LESOTHO – While other villagers walk long distances to fetch water, some only have access to water supply on certain days, these are all in spite of Lesotho boasting abundant water.
At the apex of Lesotho’s development agenda is the alleviation of poverty through a sound programmatic approach aimed at increasing access to water and improved sanitation and hygiene.
According to the United Nations (UN –Water) 2021 Water and Sanitation Progress Report: Billions of people worldwide still live without safely managed drinking water, safely managed sanitation and basic hygiene services, especially in rural areas and least developed countries; the current rates of progress need to quadruple in order to reach the global target of universal access by 2030.
From the Southern District of Lesotho called Mohale’s Hoek, ‘Mareentseng Molupe of Moeaneng Village indicated that they are mostly challenged by water scarcity in their village as they take up to 2 hours to reach a tank where there is water supply, meaning four hours are dedicated only to collecting water. She revealed that they wake up very early to collect water and it puts women and young girls vulnerable to rape and brutal killings.
In another case from Berea District, ‘Malethole Lekarapa who resides at Malimong Ha Motsieloa said at her village, they used to get water from a spring next to her house but the spring has tried up and they now collect water from the nearest village’s tank and it takes about 30 minutes to reach.
‘Malethoele also explained that due to the distance and geographic location, one needs to have a donkey to go fetch water from that tank. She said “In order to get water, we have to wake up early or at least go to the water tank in the middle of the night. Most of the time, the queue at the tank is heart-wrenching as the tank serves the population from two huge villages. This has led us into using water sparely. We prioritize when it comes to water usage especially bathing and washing vegetables.”
From another District of Leribe, A Maputsoe-based Factory Worker, ‘Maamohelang Bokoro described that water struggle is real at Maputsoe especially Ha Chonapase village where she is renting a house. She disclosed that even though they get water from a Water and Sewage Company (WASCO) water tap just in front of their flats, the tap only serves water on certain days.
“We have to wake up in the middle of the night to collect water and often times, water is available only on 2 or 3 of 7 days of the week. We have resorted to bathing with very less water so as to go a long way with one they have collected,” she highlighted.
Lerotholi Polytechnic Water and Environmental Engineering Lecturer ‘Mabotle Maphika explained that water scarcity is shortage of water for day to day activities caused by the uneven distribution of water. She said even in places where there is a relatively abundant amount of water, scarcity can still exist. The provision of water and sanitation infrastructure as captured by SDG 6 “Clean Water and Sanitation for all” is a key component to water resources management.
Maphika further explained that water scarcity can exists due to numerous issues which include extreme climatic factors such as droughts and flash flooding which have been attributed to El Niño experienced in Lesotho in 2015 and Climate Change that diminish the availability of water for consumption. In addition, the human activities such as construction of civil works like roads destroy the ecosystem in wetlands and extensive agriculture whereby fertilizers are used to increase production thus polluting ground water and surface water.
She indicated that “The problem is that water scarcity has a great impact on the health and well-being of people. People with lack of water walk longer distances to get water using jerry cans that will be stored in houses for many days and this results in the breeding mosquitos that may cause waterborne diseases such as Malaria, Cholera and Dengue amongst many other diseases.”
“Many times, the safety of water for bathing is overlooked and this affects women and girls in their reproduction related health issues experiencing vaginal infections due to protozoa, viruses and bacteria found in untreated water. Many people respond with a “no importance” answer when asked if there is any importance of safe clean water for bathing. Nitrates from fertilizers tend to reach the ground water bodies, and if this water is consumed by babies with nitrate at the level above 50mg/L, they suffer from a blue-baby syndrome which is a deadly disease,” Maphika further declared.
The Government of Lesotho’s National Strategic Development Plan II 2018/19 to 2022/23, Water and Sewage Connections states that recurring droughts, extreme weather events, and changing precipitation patterns are predicted and may result in the drying-up of wetlands, reduced surface and ground water resources, increased water pollution in watercourses, reduced supply reliability across water use sectors, increased vulnerability of rural communities who are dependent on groundwater for drinking and cooking and threats to economic growth and development.
It further indicates that efforts to provide adequate water and sanitation are hampered by: lack of integrated planning, poor land use planning, delays in implementation of plans and policies, poor maintenance of water and sanitation infrastructure and climate change impacts.
Through the NSDP II, the Government of Lesotho will ensure effective and efficient management and development of water resources in order to maximize socio-economic benefits. This will be achieved in an equitable manner without compromising the sustainability of vital environmental systems. Proper planning, conservation, development, and management of water resources requires a shared vision and ownership. Measures will be established to leverage the unique geographic location, high altitude, and pristine natural quality of the mountain areas that position Lesotho as the “Water Tower” of Southern Africa.