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With 15 International River Basins, Water Resources Management is Key Driver of Growth in Southern Africa

May 20, 2013

World Bank Group

  • Climate change is expected to increase water variability and lead to more frequent and intense floods and droughts.
  • Water management and development along with improved water services can significantly benefit the livelihoods of people and help the region grow.
  • The World Bank is scaling up support to water resources management to help the region build resilience to climate change.

The Kingdom of Lesotho has an abundance of water in its mountainous areas - the Lesotho Highlands. In Lesotho's Lowlands however, where the majority of its population live and work, there is an urgent need to increase quantity, quality and reliability of water supply.

“The water supply we have here in the industrial area is not sufficient to run the whole plant and sometimes, there is water outage and then you will find that you get a lot of damages,” said Joshua Ntshangu, who works in one of the companies in the Ha Thetsane Industrial Area in Maseru.

Joshua manages 4,000 employees working at the CGM Group, a large manufacturer of jeans mostly exported overseas. The Ha Thetsane area has been experiencing recurring and serious water shortages, which are hampering the proper function of many companies. Joshua’s and many others’ jobs and livelihoods could be affected if the current water crisis continues.

Most of Lesotho’s export earnings come from the garment industry, which includes more than 50 companies employing about 50,000 people in the greater Maseru area. Water and wastewater services are essential for these companies to thrive and continue to make a significant contribution to the country’s economic output. The entire industry currently accounts for half of all water consumed in Maseru and the lack of water and wastewater infrastructure presents a major constraint to continued growth. With climate change affecting already frequent droughts, and with increasing urban populations demanding more water, the government has recognized that securing water supply is central to continued socio-economic development.

To harness water for Lesotho's future, the Government is undertaking the Metolong Dam and Water Supply Program that will more than double the supply of water to the capital Maseru and four surrounding towns. This multi-donor program is in part financed through the US$38 million Lesotho Water Sector Improvement Project supported by the World Bank.

The project will improve water supply infrastructure in 35 villages within the catchment area for the Metolong Dam. The IDA financing will also increase water availability in the town of Teyateyaneng to the benefit of an estimated 25,000 people living in the area.

“We believe that we will have constant water supply throughout the months, throughout the year.  We are very hopeful that we will have a bright future for our companies”, said Tseliso Robert Matsau who works at the Formosa Textile Company. 

The Lesotho project is part of the World Bank’s scaled-up support to the development of water resources across southern Africa. With 15 international river basins, southern Africa’s economic prospects heavily depend on water. Water availability and quality varies considerably across the region and within countries. Regional constraints imposed by the management of transboundary waters make the water landscape more complex.

In addition, experts predict that climate change will exacerbate already extreme weather patterns across the region. To support better monitoring and forecasting, the World Bank is scaling up its support to governments in countries such as Angola, Malawi, Mozambique, and Zambia and to transboundary organizations in basins such as the Zambezi River basin.

The World Bank’s effort aims to provide a platform for broad-based economic development, water supply for growth centers and the institutional and infrastructure capacity to address the effects of climate variability.

" We believe that we will have constant water supply throughout the months, throughout the year. We are very hopeful that we will have a bright future for our companies. "

Tseliso Robert Matsau

Formosa Textile Company

Value Added through Innovation

To strengthen the quality and impact of these projects, and leverage investment and policy dialogue the World Bank brings innovative support in water resources management.

For example, in Lesotho, the World Bank through its Water Partnership Program (WPP) developed a Cultural Heritage Guidance Assessment at the catchment level to understand religious dimensions of rivers and water resources infrastructure. In southern Africa, large water resources infrastructure projects can be seen to affect divine associations with the river and impact associated cultural beliefs. This analysis is helping to enhance implementation of integrated water resources management (IWRM) and improve project results by reducing risks associated with potentially negative social impacts.

The WPP has also supported efforts to integrate and understand the implications of climate change on planned investments in the Zambezi River basin. This work builds on the Multi- Sector Investment Opportunity Analysis (MSIOA) for the Zambezi River basin that illustrated and quantified the benefits from cooperation among the eight riparian states in addition to benefits from developing water resources infrastructure (especially hydropower production and irrigation).  The analysis is being further developed through support under a US$13 million grant from the multi-donor trust fund for Cooperation in International Waters in Africa (CIWA).

In addition, the WPP supported the compilation and comparative analysis of legal instruments and policy frameworks for national and transboundary water management across Africa. This has established the most comprehensive database to date, providing a foundation for strategic analysis of the legal and policy tools to foster cooperation across the continent and strengthen the sustainable development of water resources. This work is being carried forward through collaboration with global and regional partners, with the support of CIWA.