Amnesty International calls for work on Lesotho dam to be stopped

Human rights organisation Amnesty International has called for a halt to the Polihali Dam project in Lesotho, an enclaved country within South Africa.

The project, which will supply water from Lesotho’s Orange River to South Africa, will require almost 8,000 people to be displaced. Amnesty International says some of those forced to move have been given compensation equal to a little over $1.

A quote on the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority’s website says: "All reasonable measures to ensure that the implementation, operation and maintenance of the project are compatible with the protection and the existing quality of the environment and, in particular, shall pay due regard to the maintenance of the welfare of the persons and communities immediately affected by the project."

Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s director for east and southern Africa, said: "As the construction of the Polihali Dam begins with work on the road that leads to the site, people are already being moved out of their homes for resettlement. Others face losing grazing land for their animals, or the loss of wild fruits and medicinal plants from which they earn a living.

"The Lesotho authorities must immediately halt all the work on Polihali Dam until it complies with international human rights standards on evictions. There must be genuine consultations with the affected communities, and compensation for any losses."

The first phase of the dam construction was competed in 2003. Construction is shortly to get under way on phase two.

Image courtesy of Amnesty International

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