Defining the Geopolitics of a Thirsty WorldSM
South Africa’s ‘Strategic Water Intervention’ in Lesotho

Via The Water Is Life blog, an interesting look at the Lesotho Highlands Water Project, an intricate network of tunnels and dams diverting water from Lesotho’s mountains to South Africa which South African officials have described as a “strategic intervention to ensure the water security of the country’s richest province Gauteng, which is expected to increase its water requirements by more than 30 percent in the next 20 years.”  As the blog post reports, however, some view the project as taking from the poor in Lesotho to benefit the rich:

“…Lesotho’s economy is based on water and electricity sold to South Africa, manufacturing, earnings from the Southern African Customs Union (SACU), agriculture, livestock, and to some extent earnings of laborers employed in South Africa. Lesotho also exports diamonds, wool, and mohair. Lesotho is geographically surrounded by South Africa and economically integrated with it as well. The majority of households subsist on farming or migrant labor. The western lowlands form the main agricultural zone. Almost 50% of the population earns some income through crop cultivation or animal husbandry, with over half the country’s income coming from the agricultural sector.

Water is Lesotho’s only significant natural resource. It is being exploited through the 30-year, multi-billion-dollar Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP), which was initiated in 1986. The LHWP is designed to capture, store, and transfer water from the Orange River system and send it to South Africa’s Free State and greater Johannesburg area, which features a large concentration of South African industry, population, and agriculture. Completion of the first phase of the project has made Lesotho almost completely self-sufficient in the production of electricity and generated approximately $24 million annually from the sale of electricity and water to South Africa. The World Bank, African Development Bank, European Investment Bank, and many other bilateral donors financed the project. Lesotho has taken advantage of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) to become the largest exporter of garments to the U.S. from sub-Saharan Africa. Exports totaled $437 million in 2007. Employment reached 40,000. Asian investors own most factories.”



This entry was posted on Sunday, January 11th, 2009 at 6:06 am and is filed under South Africa.  You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.  Both comments and pings are currently closed. 

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