THE Roads Directorate (RD) on Tuesday held a one-day stakeholders workshop in Maseru to formulate a strategy to curb encroachments on the national road reserve.
A road reserve is a legally described area within which facilities such as roads, footpaths, and associated features may be constructed for public travel.
Among the stakeholders in attendance during the workshop were officials from the Ministry of Tourism Environment and Culture, Lesotho Tourism Development Corporation (LTDC) and Maseru City Council.
Addressing the delegates, RD Director-General Maselomo Pama said the workshop was part of a nationwide public awareness and enforcement campaign “triggered by the escalating rate of encroachment of the road reserve”.
She said some of the culprits in the encroachment included utility providers, contractors and individuals who put up signposts and billboards along pavements, install services such as power and sewerage pipes and trade in undesignated areas.
“The problem of road reserve encroachment has become too challenging for us to deal with alone, hence the convening of this workshop,”Ms Pama said.
“We are calling on stakeholders, and members of the media, to offer their valuable contributions to finding the best approach in addressing this problem. We have decided to remove the encroachments from the roadside, but we want to carry it out in a cost effective manner after weighing all the variables.”
RD Manager Road Network Planning, Khasapane Kikine, said in most cases, building regulations prohibit the construction of structures 30 metres from the road centre line along Class A roads.
“Major B roads also prohibit buildings 30 metres from the centre line but minor B roads prohibit buildings 20 metres from the centre line. With class C and D roads, buildings are prohibited 20 metres from the road centre line,” he said.
RD Director Road Network Maintenance, Tikoe Matsoso, said they had encountered resistance from the general public since the launch of the awareness campaign.
“Since last month, the directorate has embarked on awareness campaigns which were launched by Public Works and Transport Minister Tšoeu Mokeretla with the aim of educating the public about the consequences of occupying spaces close to the roads,” he said.
“Some people wrongfully think that speed humps should just be placed everywhere just because they have built their houses near the road, but that mindset should change.”
Pitching in, RD Manager Environment and Safety, Seboka Thamae, called for a review of the policy frameworks governing the sector to ensure collaboration between various agencies.
“We need to bring on board Institutions that award land leases such as the Land Administrative Authority and Maseru City Council to review legislation which defines the term road reserve, because it has come to our attention that there are some disparities in the definition of the terms,” he said.
“A standard definition would help us guard against false interpretations and loopholes which could be used against our institutions as a defense.”
On his part, LTDC Chief Executive Mpaiphele Maqutu suggested tough measures against people who build illegal structures, saying it was impacting negatively on the tourism sector.
“The tourism sector continues to suffer because of this encroachment especially in our tourist centres situated along the borders,” he said. “Just recently, we discovered that someone had erected a shebeen near the newly-opened Caledonspoort Tourism Centre in Butha-Buthe. A shebeen does not bode well for the image we want to portray to the tourists we want to attract.
Maqutu added: “At the Van Rooi border in Mafeteng, we are fighting a similar battle with some people who, upon hearing that owners of structures being removed from the borders were eligible for compensation, have now demolished their shacks and replaced them with brick buildings to increase the amount of money they would be given. The Roads Directorate should be wary of such tricksters.”
He also urged the Water and Sewerage Company, Lesotho Electricity Corporation and Maluti Mountain Brewery to agree to stop providing their services to individuals and businesses located on road reserves.
“An applicant for water or electricity should first get approval from RD. Some people continue doing what is wrong hoping to run to politicians and complain about not being offered basic amenities,” he said.
“However, under such an agreement, it would be easy for politicians to point out the reasons the defaulters were being denied such services.”