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M48.5m Senqu water project hailed


Pascalinah Kabi

A €3.5 million (about M48.5 million) project to ensure water security in Southern Africa through the sustainable management of the Orange-Senqu River Basin has come at an opportune time as the region is still reeling from the effects of the 2015 El Nino induced drought.

This was said by Water Commissioner Mokake Mojakisane in an interview with the Sunday Express this past week following the 31 January 2017 signing of an agreement between the African Water Facility (AWF) and NEPAD Infrastructure Project Preparation Facility (NEPAD-IPPF) and with the Orange Senqu River Basin Commission (ORASECOM) to launch the Climate Resilient Water Resources Investment Strategy and Multipurpose Project Preparation for the Orange-Senqu River Basin.

The objective of the co-financed project is to promote sustainable socio-economic growth in the basin riparian countries through climate resilient water resources development in the framework of basin-wide cooperation led by the ORASECOM.

Shared by Lesotho, Botswana, South Africa and Namibia, the Senqu-River Basin originates in the highlands of Lesotho and runs for over 2 300 km to its mouth on the Atlantic Ocean between Namibia and South Africa.

The river basin spans over 1.0 million km2 and is one of the largest river basins in Africa. It encompasses all of Lesotho, a significant portion of South Africa, Botswana and Namibia. The basin poses complex water management challenges for safeguarding future water security. The central challenge being the assurance of water security under increased hydrological variability compounded by climate change impact.

According to the African Development Bank (AfDB), the Orange-Senqu River basin is of major economic importance to South Africa and Lesotho contributing to 26% and 100% respectively of their GDP.

“The beneficiaries of the project will be the 14 million people living in the riparian communities in the basin as well as five additional million inhabitants in South Africa that despite being located outside the basin will benefit from its water resource through water transfer schemes. The water basin resources development will greatly improve livelihoods and engender sustainable socio-economic growth in the region,” the AfDB notes in a statement.

Mr Mojakisane said the project came at an opportune time when the region was still reeling from the effects of the El Nino-induced drought. He also indicated that it would help governments, especially Lesotho, build a sustainable water and sanitation project for people staying in the rural areas.

“The project will enhance efforts by the governments to ensure that people have access to clean water and proper sanitation. For Lesotho, this project came at the opportune time as it will help us reinforce water and sanitation projects aimed at ensuring that people in the rural areas have access to clean water and proper sanitation.”

He further explained that the project would help government build a more climate resilient water programme.

“We will be able to prepare ourselves for future disasters like the recent drought,” Mr Mojakisane said.

“We can’t afford to relax because we might experience a similar drought and therefore we need to be more prepared than the last time.”

He said Lesotho’s wetlands were under increasing threat from human activities, reducing their ability to retain water.

“Not only are wetlands important for preserving water for future use but areas surrounding these wetlands must also be protected. Normally, these areas are rangelands protecting the wetlands from harsh weather conditions,” the Water Commissioner said.

“Grass is a very important natural resource in protecting the wetlands because it keeps the wetlands covered and protected. This helps wetlands remain intact and as a spongy-like natural resource. They absorb and store water during the rainy days, while gradually releasing it into the rivers during dry times.”

He stressed that protecting wetlands was not doing government a favour since it was beneficial to people living around such areas.

“Without grass, our soil will be rapidly eroded into South Africa and experts have warned that if nothing is done to prevent this rapid soil erosion, by 2040 Lesotho will have no soil for agricultural purposes,” Mr Mojakisane added.

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