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 IRN’s Lesotho Campaign

Affected Peoples in Lesotho Highlands"I realize that we will be plagued by hunger because life here is mainly by the thing called pokotho, that is money. Now, we find that we are lost because the money we had been promised has not been given to us. Even the money we were paid for our compensation has been reduced drastically. We found that we will end up living much more poorly than where we came from. There are some painful things about resettlement."

– A villager resettled for LHWP
as quoted in The Irony of "White Gold" (PDF)

The Orange River has its headwaters in the high mountains of Lesotho, a tiny landlocked nation completely surrounded by South Africa. The rural mountain communities farm and herd their animals in the rugged mountain watersheds, proud of their ability to survive the harsh conditions.

Map of the area

See a larger map of the affected area

Geographical map

Their mountain watersheds are being turned into lakes, however, by the massive Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP). The multi–billion project is designed to divert water from the Orange River to South Africa’s the urban and industrial Gauteng region through a series of dams and tunnels blasted through the mountains.

The first two dams in the multi–dam scheme are complete, but critical social and environmental problems affecting some 20,000 Basotho people remain unresolved. Download a 2001 report to learn more about the problems with resettlement and restoration of livelihoods for those whose lands were submerged by this World Bank project.

The LHWP has also been plagued by corruption, which has resulted in convictions in a Lesotho court of some of the world’s largest dam–construction and engineering firms.

Background Reading

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