Jan. 20, 2022


3 min read

Are water project legacies a white elephant?

Are water project legacies a white elephant?

The Polihali Project site

Story highlights

    Are Lesotho water project legacies a white elephant like World Cup and Olympics infrastructure built elsewhere around the world?
    Concerted effort is needed to gain maximum benefit out of these properties

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IN Lesotho, we have not hosted any major sports tournament like the FIFA World Cup or the Olympic Games but the water projects have certainly left a lasting legacy in our beautiful Mountain Kingdom.

While stadiums built for these tournaments have sucked up taxpayers’ money, they often end up as white elephants through lack of use after the games.

This week, Lesotho received another shot in the arm with the construction of the M454 million Polihali mega housing and lodge project, which will add to the Katse and Mohale multimillion maloti properties that have shaped our landscape.

But the big question is: Are the Lesotho water project legacies a white elephant like the World Cup and Olympics infrastructure built elsewhere around the world?

If you visited the Katse and Mohale dams, you would realise that the housing and other facilities were not just consigned to house the water project workers but were designed to be used beyond the completion of the projects.

As a country what are we doing to efficiently utilise and profit from the use of these facilities? Well, there are efforts to keep the lodges open but is the business good enough? How many Basotho with the money to spend have visited these water resorts?

Concerted effort is needed to gain maximum benefit out of these properties and one way would be domestic tourism which could see a lot of traffic headed up the mountains.  

While government works hard to boost growth, it remains an individual’s choice to support the local economy by first touring the country before going on holiday abroad.

The water project legacies need a dedicated workforce to coordinate and track performance of delivery beyond the construction of the dams. We do not only need a report on how the Polihali infrastructure will be used beyond completion but we need to know by how much the investment will contribute each year to our coffers.

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There was never transparency of the property on the Thaba Chitja Island in Mohale and there was so much reluctance with its handover that it finally burned down; yet there were Basotho investors who were prepared to risk their hard earned money in its undertaking.

With the Polihali building infrastructure, we do not need a repeat of the Thaba Chitja ill-defined tender. In fact, we need a coherent plan to achieve value out of the houses and the lodge.

Local Basotho need to get long-term jobs through tourism beyond Polihali. Profit generating projects that promote our culture and heritage should be set up and run with a focus around the Polihali properties. We need mechanisms to uplift our economy through the water project legacies and adequately make a living out of them.

Already, we know we have a scarcity of appropriately skilled people in the dams’ host communities and we must move fast to train them to open tourism based businesses leading up to the end of the Polihali project.

There is no more room for failure given the hard economic conditions of joblessness. A proper profiling of the communities living here and potential investors in the Polihali infrastructure should begin now to avoid future delays. We must move away from the short-term prospects of employment generation while the water projects last but we should measure the value of the projects to perpetuity.



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