Letter to the World Bank, Re: Lesotho Highlands Water Project

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Mr. Jean–Louis Sarbib

Vice President
Africa Region
The World Bank
1818 H St., NW
Washington, D.C. 20433

Re: Lesotho Highlands Water Project

Dear Mr. Sarbib,

We wish to call your attention to some of the most important unresolved issues regarding the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP). You will recall that we raised similar concerns in our letter to you last November, but unfortunately many of these issues remain unresolved. The most critical is the still urgent matter related to the compensation of project–affected people who lost access to communal grazing lands, which seems to have remained unresolved despite an urgent letter from the affected communities to the Bank. The other issues are outstanding questions that Cyprian Fisiy, in our meeting with him on March 2, was unable to answer.

Project–Affected People

As we described in our November letter, communities affected by Katse Dam are experiencing serious delays in compensation due them for loss of communal lands. When these communities wrote the Bank and project authorities late last year, the situation was dire: cattle were dying because fodder deliveries had stopped, and the petitioners asked that they be given either fodder or cash compensation immediately. We have just learned from the Lesotho NGO Transformation Resource Center (TRC) that many Phase 1A communities are still waiting for compensation for communal lands. The following is from an excerpt from an April 1999 TRC report:

Residents of Ha Nkokana also complain about not having yet received compensation for communal grazing lands this year. It is now one year late. LHDA is no longer giving fodder for grazing land taken during construction of the dam. Instead, affected communities are to be paid an annuity (so long as the community uses it for an LHDA–approved development project). Leuta said Ha Nkokana is devising a development project but has not yet seen any of their compensation money. Like the people of Ha Nkokana, Tente said the people of Mapeleng are upset about the lack of compensation for communal lands. “The lack of fodder is creating problems of overgrazing in our pastures,” he said. The LHDA explained the new annuity scheme to them and even provided training in needs identification for development projects, but none of the projects that the village has devised have been approved by LHDA. Mapeleng proposed three projects: solar electricity, an improved water supply, and a mill. Each one of them failed to receive LHDA approval because they were deemed “not sustainable.” Therefore, no communal compensation money has yet been paid to Mapeleng.

Clearly, the communal assets compensation program is in dire need of a thorough review by independent monitors, with input from affected people. We would appreciate an update on what has been done to resolve this situation, and what steps are being taken to review this troubled program which is so crucial to the restoration of people’s livelihoods.

We understand there are other outstanding compensation grievances as well, some of which LHDA disputes. We would like to know how the Bank proposes to address this situation. We also understand that funds for Phase 1B work were not to be released until certain conditions of effectiveness were met, including this one: “The borrower has taken appropriate measures to settle in a manner satisfactory to the Bank all outstanding compensation claims resulting from activities initiated under phase 1A and registered with the borrower as at June 30, 1997.” Have these funds been released, and if so, does that mean the Bank is satisfied with the resolution of compensation claims? If communities dispute that all claims have been appropriately handled, will a follow up study will be done to resolve the dispute?

We are very concerned about the lack of progress on the development fund. Reports from the Highlands indicate that progress has been extremely slow in releasing these development funds to communities. We would appreciate an update from you on how these funds are actually being used. Is there a progress report or other documentation you can share?

Environmental Impacts

Please update us on the status of the following:

• The erosion and watershed management plan

• Monitoring the implementation of the Environmental Action Plan (including plans for endangered species, the emergency preparedness plan, wetlands conservation plans, and water conservation plans).

• The Instream Flow Requirements study.

Future Phases

We understand that some preliminary negotiations between South Africa and Lesotho have begun for Phase 2 of the project. Can you update us on these negotiations? If the Bank were to enter into negotiations on this phase of the project, what role will it play in evaluating alternatives? What stage will that evaluation occur?

We thank you for your attention these issues and look forward to your reply.


Lori Pottinger
International Rivers
1847 Berkeley Way
Berkeley, CA 94703
(510) 848–1155

Korinna Horta
Environmental Defense Fund
1875 Connecticut Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20009
(202) 387–3500

cc: Melanie Marlett (U.S. Executive Director’s Office)
Michael Colby (U.S. Treasury Department)
Willie Croucamp (DWAF–RSA)
Thayer Scudder (Environmental Expert Panel)