‘Wetlands abuse threatens LHWP’

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Bereng Mpaki

MOKHOTLONG — THE continued abuse of wetlands could soon spell doom for the Lesotho Highlands Water Project advocacy group Maluti Community Development Forum (MCDF) has said.

This was said by MCDF president Advocate Thabo Lerotholi during the launch of a two-year wetlands conservation project to mitigate the adverse human action in Mapholaneng, Mokhotlong.

The initiative was necessitated by adverse human actions like mining and uncontrolled livestock grazing. The community recently said that if speedy corrective measures were not taken timeously, some of the wetlands could dry up and threaten the existence of some of the country’s largest rivers.

The MCDF told the communities during a recent tour of Mokhotlong that chemical contamination from diamond mine slime dams and tailings are also polluting wetlands. Some of the wetlands are also threatened by livestock trampling them.

The two-year conservation project aims to raise awareness against the abuse of wetlands seeking avenues to preserve them for the future of the country’s water base.

Adv Lerotholi said abuse of wetlands could negatively affect the future of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP).

“The dams that are being built under the water project such as Polihali could also be in danger due to diminishing water sources caused by drying wetlands,” Adv Lerotholi said.

“All the large rivers in this area such as Khubelu, Senqu, Moremoholo, Mokhotlong and Sehonghong River among others derive their water from wetlands.

“Therefore, if we don’t act to preserve our wetlands, it is all over for this country and the LHWP. Let us join forces to take care of our wetlands.”

Adv Lerotholi said wetlands management depended on successful sensitisation and the buy-in of livestock farmers and their herd boys.

“Today we are launching a big initiative in collaboration with the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA).

“The project consists of two components. The one that is starting today relates to preservation of wetlands. We are mindful of the fact that this will not be easy to deliver since the government itself has failed in its attempts through the Ministry of Forestry, Range and Soil Conservation.

“The government launched a similar project at Khalong La Lithunya a few years back but it failed because livestock farmers failed to control their animals from grazing on the wetlands area.

“It is therefore imperative for us to do something about livestock. The MCDF has recognised that we will not succeed to address this problem alone.”

He said livestock farmers and herd boys must be conscientised about the dangers of destroying wetlands.

Adv Lerotholi said the MCDF would compile a progress report of the conservation project in March 2020.

He said the second phase would start later and would focus on women and youth empowerment.

“Our youths have no prospects after finishing school. It is time we act. We must ensure that our youths engage in projects that can improve their lives.

Phalo Sefefo, from Itjareng Mapholana Association, which deals with soil erosion and land degradation issues, said livestock farmers were making their job difficult by letting their livestock wander onto preserved areas.

“There are some livestock farmers who are disrespectful to the chiefs in the area. They disregard them and selfishly graze their animals on the grasses we have planted to manage land degradation.

“In Sesotho we say ground water lends itself to rain, so it is important for us to preserve our ground water so that we can have good rains.”

For her part, environmentalist ‘Makamohelo Mokone said it was imperative to jealously guard the remaining water sources.

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