Sinohydro Corporation Limited —a Chinese company which was the main contractor in the construction of Metolong Dam and related infrastructure—has been supplying water to Ha Makhale villagers since October last year due to the prevailing drought which has since forced the government to declare a national emergency.
According to Sinohydro Safety Manager, Sun La, the decision to help out the community, which is about 10 kilometres from the dam, was because of the cordial relationship that exists between the villagers and the company.
Sinohydro first pumps the water into a tank about five kilometres from the dam which was built on the Phuthiatsana River in Thaba-Bosiu, and then conveys the water to the village via a special but simple pipeline.
Metolong dam, whose construction started in 2008 and was completed last year, seeks to augment water supplies to Mazenod, Morija, Teyateyaneng, Roma and Maseru. Locals are not yet being supplied with water from the dam but the authorities say efforts are being made to ensure they also benefit from the project.
“When we first came here, we didn’t have access to clean water and the village supplied us with the precious liquid. The other reason why we decided to do this was simply because of lack of water due to the current drought which has hit the entire country,” Mr La said this week.
“It was our turn to return the favour, but we couldn’t just allow them to continue drawing water from the plant.
“The distance between the water source and the village was also too long, hence we decided to make it available at their door step through this simple but reinforced hosepipe.”
Mr La said the company was supplying the water to the village free of charge and would continue to do so “for as long as they need it or any other service from us”.
He continued: “They welcomed us when we arrived here, which marked the beginning of a good working relationship. We give them firewood and Christmas presents every single year, and also allow them, especially the orphans, to use our site-clinics because healthcare facilities are far away from their village. We also provide them with our ambulance during emergencies.”
One of the villagers, ‘Makhahliso Malumane, said Sinohydro’s intervention had come at a crucial time for the residents.
“We used to collect water from unprotected wells within the village, but we lost them when the Metolong project started because they were within the construction area,” Ms Malumane said.
“However, Rural Water Supply (RWS) connected running water throughout the village but the taps started to give us problems in September last year.
“We would wake up at midnight every single day to collect water from these RWS taps as it was first come, first serve.
“But by the end of the month, the taps ran completely dry and out of desperation, we would go to Sinohydro for water.”
However, Ms Malumane said the journey to Sinohydro was tiresome hence the residents’ gratitude to the company for the innovation that has brought such relief to the village.
“Giving us water simply means we have good relations with Sinohydro management, but still, we are grateful for the water that has been brought to our doorstep at no cost to us, the beneficiaries,” she said.
Ha Makhale Chief Harebatho Makhale told the Lesotho Times that the water situation in the village had become extremely desperate before Sinohydro’s intervention.
“We largely depend on farming, so without water, we cannot survive; our crops will die and our livestock will also not survive. We could not plant much in the current cropping season due to drought, so we are facing a bleak future as far as food security is concerned,” Chief Makhale said.
“Our desperation forced us to approach Sinohydro officials who initially allowed us to draw water from the plant although they were worried that it wasn’t safe, so they would encourage us to boil it first before household use.
“We then proposed that the management could erect a tank at the site and connect the village via a hosepipe.
“The same day, the management gave us water, taking a huge load off our shoulders.
“I remember Mr Sun La saying to me, ‘you accepted us with open arms when we first arrived here and your suffering is also our suffering’ and that made me realise the huge impact we had made when these men arrived here.”
The Metolong dam programme was made possible through funding from the governments of Lesotho and South Africa, European Investment Bank, Saudi Fund for Development, Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development, Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa, OPEC Fund for International Development, Abu Dhabi Fund for Development, the US Millennium Challenge Corporation and the World Bank.