Too much water and not enough to drink
Too much water and not enough to drink
But she was not. There were many women ahead of her. Around the nearby village bore-hole pump, a group of young women sit patiently alongside the snaking queue of their 30 empty 20-litre plastic drums. The drums hold the place for the women, while they sit by the side, waiting their turn.
At the pump a woman is busy pumping the flowing water into one of her many drums.
Letsoela has been here since early morning. But it is only at 7am, two hours after her arrival, that she has managed to fill her two drums with water. But this is a daily routine for her.
“This is what we do every day, and we have learnt to get used to it,” she says with a shrug, as if she does not care anymore.
Letsoela is one of the many members of the community at Sekamaneng village, some 13 kilometres north of Maseru town, who knows little or nothing about what to expect from the Lesotho Lowlands Water Supply Scheme (LLWSS). She fends for herself by selling bread in town. She has to wake at 2am almost every morning to bake her bread – the dough of which she prepares on the previous evening.
“With this water, I am going to bake my bread, cook evening meals, and wash myself and my child in the morning before I go to work,” she says with a disapproving gesture – indicating that the two drums of water is not nearly enough for all her chores.
She further points out that collecting water in the mornings is more convenient than in the evenings as the students from the village crowd around the pump after their studies to collect water.
The Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP) is reportedly raising millions of dollars each month and raising much needed revenue for this relatively poor country through the sale of water to neighbouring countries.
But in spite of the international aid efforts to ensure the easy access of clean water for all, there are still many rural and urban poor, like Letsoela, who do not know when exactly she will have a tap with running water, and a toilet in her home.
“All I know is that Lesotho receives a lot of money from the project (LHWP), and that there is the Metolong Dam project which will make water easily accessible to us in the future, but when?” she asks, perplexed.
Maseru and other lowland districts of Lesotho suffer serious water shortages, and in a bid to address this, the LLWSS has embarked on building the Metolong dam along the Phuthiatsana river on the outskirts of the city.
Metolong dam is expected to provide access to clean water to more than one million people by the year 2020. The dam will be 73 metres high and have a 210 metres crescent length and is intended to supply water for domestic and industrial use in Maseru and the neighbouring towns of Teyateyaneng, Roma, Mazenod and Morija. It will cost over 130 million dollars.
The completed dam will directly support government’s efforts to improve the existing supply of water and give running water to areas without, both in Maseru and other fast-growing urban centres.
By 2012 water supply is expected to reach 90 percent of Maseru. Sanitation coverage is expected to increase from current low levels of 15 percent in Maseru and 6 percent in the other urban centres to 20 percent and 10 percent respectively.
According to the World Health Organisation standards, an average person should be able to access a minimum of 20 litres of water per day within a one kilometer radius. While many may argue that the problem that causes poor accessibility to water is lack of water, some experts think differently.
“It is not lack of (water) that is the problem, but lack of technological know-how to bring these resources much closer to the people,” says Barbara Lopi, Communications Specialist from SADC Groundwater and Drought Management Project.
Water is Lesotho’s largest single source of foreign exchange. The country, deemed one of the poorest in the world, earns almost 30 million dollars in annual royalties from South Africa – roughly 75 percent of its national budget.
But in the meantime, people like Letsoela still do not have access to water, and they cannot understand why.
“I am still waiting to see what the Metolong project will bring us, even though I think we will not reap the fruits of the project in the near future,” Letsoela laments.