NDB Spotlight: The Lesotho Highlands Water Project Who Benefits?

  • Opinion by Marianne Buenaventura Goldman, Reitumetse Nkoti Mabula (cape town, south africa)
  • Inter Press Service

LHWP Phase II, and its impact on the residents of Polihali and Mokhotlong, has been the subject of much criticism and controversy in recent years. Police have been accused of using excessive force against those who express their disapproval and protest about certain aspects of the project, or its implementation. The compensation policy of the project’s implementing agency, the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority(LHDA), is also a source of complaints. There are complaints about unfair compensation amounts for communities based on compensation rates and time periods that were unilaterally set, the non-payment communal compensation, which prevented communities from developing projects to generate income, and a lack of development such as water and sanitation.

Implementation of LHWP

requires acquisition of land

from local communities; it is estimated that 5,000 hectares of land will be flooded by the Polihali Dam.

1 This acquisition of land will result in significant negative impacts on the livelihoods and socio-economic status of the local populations. The communities will lose their arable land and grazing areas for livestock, which are the main source of wealth in the area. They will also lose medicinal plants, useful Grasses, and wild vegetables, which are the basis for livelihoods. The construction of this dam will also require the relocation and/or resettlement of communities. It is currently estimated that 270 households and 21 business enterprises will need to be relocated, mainly due to the impoundment of Polihali reservoir.2 About 12 communities will be relocated, and an additional 5 communities will be required to resettle entirely, a process that will have great economic and socio-economic and cultural implications for generations to come. Regrettably, there is no livelihood restoration strategy that has been developed by the LHDA to ameliorate the plight of these communities or at least no such strategy has been shared and/or discussed with communities and their representatives.Negative gender impacts have also been noted; women within LHWP Phase II project area are already marginalised because of cultural stereotypes and practices which prevent them from owning land. LHWP’s Phase II Compensation policy has only served as a catalyst to exacerbate gender inequality by denying women compensation for land they previously shared or managed. It increases their vulnerability to violence based on gender and economics. There have been alarming news reports about gender-based violence in the last few months. These include teenage pregnancy and school dropouts of girls, sexwork/transactional sexual, sexual abuse of young girls and an increase in HIV infection. The influx of foreign contractors and workers working on the LHWP has been directly linked to these cases, which is a continuation of a trend that was observed in the implementation of previous phases of this program. The fact that the NDB has provided a loan of 3.2 billion Rands ($171.5 million) for Phase 2 LHWP raises questions about the NDB’s policies and practices regarding transparency, accountability, environmental and social safeguards including gender. The NDB’s second five-year General Strategy (2022-227) outlines its plans for

. Since the beginning of NDB operations in 2013, BRICS civil societies have called on the NDB for a gender-sensitive policy. This will be implemented with the help of gender experts at the NDB, who will ensure that gender equality is integrated into all aspects of the NDB’s projects and in partnerships with clients like the TCTA or the LHDA. All eyes are on Dilma, the former President of Brazil, the new president of the NDB, to see if she can transform the NDB into a gender-neutral multilateral development institution that empowers women and delivers on gender equality in its New General Strategy. Rousseff stated in a recent press release that the NDB’s priority will be to “…promote inclusion of all social groups at any given opportunity. The NDB needs to support projects that help to reduce inequalities and that improve the standard of living of the vast communities of the poor and excluded in our countries.”The NDB has now grown beyond the BRICS countries, and recently included new member countries such as the United Arab Emirates, Bangladesh, Egypt and Uruguay and has greater aspirations to add many more countries. It is important that, given the NDB’s expansion, the NDB begins to live up to its vision as an institution accountable for the South by the South. The NDB must put its policies, such as those on Information Disclosure, into action immediately. The NDB can then provide communities with information about projects that have a direct impact on their livelihoods and lives. The NDB must also work closely with clients to ensure that the guidelines in its Environmental and Social Framework are followed. Civil Society Forum of NDB (South Africa/Africa), which includes Lesotho-based community organisations, calls on NDB to learn lessons from the mistakes made during Phase 1 of LHWP. During Phase II, the NDB, along with other development finance institutions like the DBSA, AfDB, and others, should ensure the LHDA holds effective and timely consultations and provides basic services, such as clean drinking water, as well as fair and adequate compensation for all affected communities, especially women, who were previously left behind. During the 2023 BRICS Summit which took place from 22-24 August, Minister Naledi Pandor of South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation highlighted the regarding the sharing of information about the projects that the NDB finances, including vital information, such as the $3 billion NDB plans invest in South Africa. The focus is now on South Africa, Brazil, and NDB President Rousseff, who will lead the charge to ensure that the NDB achieves stronger and more inclusive outcomes, and puts women at the forefront of all future NDB initiatives. The 4th Finance in Common Summit, or FICS, will bring together hundreds of PDBs in Cartegena (Colombia) on September 4-6 to work together to transform the financial sector towards sustainability and climate. It is important that PDBs change their models in order to promote positive outcomes for the communities. PDBs are advocating for increased volumes of financing for development. Civil society from around the world is united and making its voices heard in the FICS. They are concerned that there is not enough attention being paid to the need for a shift in the quality of the finance in order to avoid escalating the current crises, as well as to ensure that it shifts power in the decision-making process. This attention is needed more than ever as the current financial structure hinders governments’ ability to protect the people and the environment. 1https://www.lhda.org.ls : accessed on the 11th July 2023

Marianne Goldman

is co-Chair of the Civil Society Forum for the NDB in Africa & Project Coordinator at Forus
strengthen gender mainstreaming in all its projectsReitumetse Nkoti Mabula

is Executive Director, Seinoli Legal Centre

IPS UN Bureau

Follow IPS News UN Bureau on Instagramneed for the NDB to do outreach at the local level(c) Inter Press Service (2023) — All Rights Reserved

Original source: Inter Press Service

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