The effects of land degradation on sustainability of the Lesotho Highland Water Development Project: The need for land restoration

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Malipholo Hae

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Lesotho is known as Southern Africa’s water engine due to its abundant water and high altitude that allows it to supply water to parts of the region either through treaties or naturally. Lesotho currently supplies 780 million m³ of water to Johannesburg through the Lesotho Highland Water Development Project (LHWDP), thus driving one of the strongest African economies. Lesotho earns royalties that contribute 10% to its Gross Domestic Product and hydropower. Lesotho has also agreed to the envisaged Lesotho – Botswana Water Transfer. The project will benefit communities in Lesotho, Botswana, and South Africa through increased climate resilience and long-term water supply security, revenue for Lesotho, and increased irrigation agriculture. Namibia benefits from Lesotho’s water through the Orange River. This talk highlights the importance of land restoration for Highland Water Development Project stability. LHWDP is highly attractive to politicians because of the money generated. However, politicians have no interest in land rehabilitation. Lesotho’s highlands are severely degraded, affecting the recharge of underground water. In the long-run water projects will not endure. Restoration brings economic benefits from increased productivity on formerly degraded lands. A healthy land restores biodiversity lost during construction. Land restoration creates recreational opportunities conducive to ecotourism development. Additionally, restoring vegetation reduces soil erosion and related de-silting expenses. All states benefiting from Lesotho’s water should develop a coordinated land restoration approach for a continued supply of water. Lesotho should also allocate a percentage of royalties for land restoration and urge local water utilities to pledge resources for restoration programs.

Resource Type:
Audio/Video, Conference Presentation, SER2019

Society for Ecological Restoration