Prof. Q. K. Chakela
NATIONAL ENVIRONMENT SECRETARIAT
MINISTRY OF ENVIRONMENT, GENDER AND YOUTH AFFAIRS
First published in 1999 by
National Environment Secretariat (NES)
Ministry of Environment, Gender and Youth Affairs
Government of Lesotho
P.O. Box 10993, Maseru, Lesotho
Copyright (C) 1999 by National Environment Secretariat
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be Reproduced,
stored in a retrieval system,
or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise,
without the prior permission of the publisher.
Cover design and photo by Dudu Coelho
Design, layout and illustrations by Southland Design and Communication
Repro and printing by Bähr Design Studio
Contributors and Reviewers
Chapter 1-Environment and Economic Development
The environment-economy link; trends in key macro-economic variables; the sector- and resource-based economy; economic and environmental policies; the environment-economy outlook
Chapter 2 - The Human Environment
The history of human settlement in Lesotho; the human environment today; reversing the trends
Chapter 3-Cultural and Historical Heritage
People and the environment in Lesotho; culture, language and environmental awareness; traditional environmental conservation; paleontology; archaeology; rock paintings; historic buildings; historic sites; museums and archives; proposals for policy, legislative and institutional change
Chapter 4-Arable Agriculture
Physical environment and agroclimatologv; soil resources for crop production; crop production; the Ministry of agriculture and institutional capacity to support arable farming; need for diversification and alternative systems
Chapter 5-Rangeland and Livestock
Overview of rangeland resources; livestock populations and distribution; rangeland and livestock trends; rangeland use, management and administration; socioeconomic context and ecological implications; measures for conservation and sustainability; opportunities for range conservation and sustainable use; livestock owners as rangeland managers
Chapter 6-Indigenous Forests, Trees, Shrubs and Afforestation
History of forestry in Lesotho; existing forests, trees and shrub resources; environmental impacts of forests, trees and shrubs; forest, tree and shrub-based produce used in Lesotho; policy and legal framework; institutional context; current forestry activities; future trends in forestry programmes
Background; past and on-going studies; mineral resources exploitation and impacts; social aspects; regional co-operation; the mining sector.. The present and the future
The national road network; state of road construction and maintenance; road transport activity; environmental issues in road construction and maintenance; establishing environmental protection guidelines
Chapter 9-land Use Planning and Soil Conservation
Background; land use planning; soil conservation; environmental implications, issues and problems; the future of land use planning and soil conservation
Chapter 10-Climate and Climate Change
Regional and local climate controls in Lesotho; classification of Lesotho's climate; climate and the environment; past, present and future climate; climate change; recommendations for action
Chapter 11-Water Resources and Water Use
Water resources; wetlands; water supply and demand; water quality antipollution; institutional context of water resources management; existing water and related laws; wetlands and watershed management; recommendations for the water sector
Chapter 12-Biodiversity and Protected Areas
Background; past changes in the condition of the environment; current state of biodiversity; conservation measures; legislation and international conventions; traditional knowledge and biological resources; monitoring; need for accurate data
Chapter 13-Energy Resources and Energy Use
Energy and the environment: a global and developing country perspective; energy resources and the environment in Lesotho; energy use and the environment; issues underlying the energy /environment interface; impact on other sectors; future actions and responses
Chapter 14-The Urban Environment
Overview of urbanisation in Lesotho; air pollution; water supply and quality; solid waste management; noise pollution; the work and living environments; environment and health in urban areas; toward a cleaner and healthier urban environment
Chapter 15-Environmental Policies, Legislation and Institutional Arrangements
Historical background; the road to sustainable development; Lesotho's participation in regional and global conventions; institutional arrangements; the way forward
Chapter 16-Environmental Trends and Scenarios
Trends in state of the environment key variables; future scenarios
This is Lesotho's first State of Environment Report. It has been compiled and produced by the National Environment Secretariat (NES) in collaboration with relevant Ministries and the private sector. The main objective of the State of the Environment in Lesotho, 1997 is to closely examine the conditions of the country's ecosystems vis-ŕ-vis human activities. It looks at the existing status, changes in state, and the factors responsible for those changes.
The Report constitutes an attempt by the Government of Lesotho to meet
both national and international obligations pertaining to sustainable development.
In 1992 the nations of the world, in their quest for development that takes
into account the needs of the present and future generations, met at the
United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED)-the "Earth
Summit" in Rio de Janeiro-to work out the strategies that would make them
realise their dream. A direct result of the Conference was the development
of the famous Agenda 21.
As one of the countries that were represented at the Conference, Lesotho
now has both the duty and moral obligation to fulfil her commitments and
become more responsive to the views and expectations of the World's people
as a whole. The production of national State of the Environment reports
constitutes one of the requirements of Agenda 21 and, in this regard, Lesotho
is keeping apace with the rest of the inhabitants of the global village.
At the national level, environmental issues have been enshrined in our
Constitution. Section 36 of Lesotho's Constitution clearly articulates
Government's commitment to sustainable development. The State of the Environment
Report is one of the barometers used to assess the progress made towards
achieving this daunting challenge we all aspire for. The most important
questions are therefore: Are our rates of consumption of natural resources
sustainable? Are we taking care of our different ecosystems-life support
systems upon which we, as well as all other life forms, depend?
Is the quality of our environmental components-water, air, land, plants
and animals-improving, deteriorating or constant?
Most of these questions cannot be adequately answered by one report.
A series of reports will be needed to show trends displayed by each quality
indicator, hence the need to monitor the changes over longer periods.
"Why a State of the Environment Report?", some people may ask. Every
citizen of Lesotho has a right to know what is happening to the resources
of this country, and who or what is responsible for the changes. With this
knowledge goes what needs to be done to either enhance positive changes
or combat the negative ones. It follows, therefore, that the State of the
Environment Report is meant for everyone: workers, business community,
chiefs, politicians, etc. Since we all have taken part in bringing about
environmental degradation, it is only fair that we all participate in measures
aimed at ensuring sustainable utilisation of resources.
In short, the State of the Environment Report promotes environmental
accountability. it should be noted that this Report is the result of a
lengthy process of consultations and discussions amongst the different
stakeholders and thus reflects a broad consensus on Lesotho's major environmental
During the preparation of the Report, it became apparent that data on
different environmental components were either not available or limited.
In some instances, the information was so outdated or patchy that it was
impossible to clearly establish trends. In order to overcome this problem,
the need for a fully-fledged, computerised system-containing socioeconomic
as well as biophysical data-could not be over-emphasised. In fact, one
of the requirements for reporting the state of the environment is the establishment
of an environmental meta-database. The State of the Environment Report
identifies environmental indicators, and all relevant agencies will be
expected to establish monitoring systems that will be able to detect and
record changes in the given indicator.
The role of the National Environment Secretariat remains that of co-ordination
of all activities relating to the preparation of State of the Environment
reports. This report marks the beginning of a partnership between Government
and all stakeholders-a partnership that is crucial for the achievement
of sustainable development.
It is hoped that this report will be useful not only for providing information
on the state of our environment, but also to act as a benchmark for subsequent
reports. It will feed information into the sub-regional, regional and global
state of the environment reporting system, under the auspices of intergovernmental
and international organisations. In order to ensure continuity in the provision
of this vital information, it is intended that a Lesotho State of the Environment
Report will be produced at five-yearly intervals.
Minister of Environment, Gender and Youth Affairs
Government of the Kingdom of Lesotho
The production of this report has been made possible by the contributions
of a number of organisations and individuals. First and foremost, our sincere
gratitude goes to the Danish Cooperation for Environment and Development
(DANCED), for their generosity in financing the preparation of the report.
We are especially indebted to Mr. Hassan Partow, who initiated and coordinated
all the initial stages. His thinking and professional insight during the
preparation of the report have been remarkable. We are also grateful to
both Mrs. Aah Sekhesa, Director of the National Environment Secretariat
(NES), and Mr. Lira Molapo, Environment Officer (Data) of NES, who continued
coordinating the completion of the report after Mr. Partow's departure.
We also wish to thank the Southern African Development Community's Environment
and Land Management Sector (SADC-ELMS) Coordination Unit for kindly providing
some of the photographs used in the document.
Finally, we gratefully acknowledge the invaluable and kind contributions
of all the individual authors and reviewers, and of all those who-directly
and indirectly-provided constant support and insight into the various chapters
of the report.
Ministry of Environment, Gender and Youth Affairs
Chapter 1 Environment and Economic Development
Contributor Dr. M. Majoro, Lecturer. Department of Economics,,
Reviewer Dr. K. Matlosa, Senior Lecturer, Political Science & Administrative Studies
Chapter 2 The Human Environment
Contributor Dr. J. Gay, Consultant, Sechaba Consultants
Reviewer Mr. M. Tshabalala, Sociologist, Lesotho Highlands Development Authority,
Chapter. 3 Cultural and Historical Heritage
Contributor Prof. D. Ambrose, Consultant
Reviewer Mr. T. Pitso
Chapter 4 Arable Agriculture
Contributor Dr. M. Marake. Lecturer, Faculty of Agriculture,
Reviewer Dr. R. Phororo, Consultant
Chapter 5 Rangeland and livestock
Dr. R. Phororo, Consultant
Mr. B. G. Sibolla, Section Head - Development, Lesotho Highlands Development Authority
Chapter 6 Indigenous Forests, Trees. Shrubs and Afforestation
Mr. N. Maile, Chief Forestry Officer, Department of Conservation, Forestry and Land Use Planning
Mr. D. May, Forestry and Environment Consultant
Chapter 7 Mining
Contributor Mr. L. Molapo, Environment Officer, Department of
Reviewer Ms. N. Mpatuuoa, Principal Geologist, Department of Mines and Geology
Chapter 8 Roads
Contributor Mr. M. Makafane, Senior Roads Engineer, Roads Branch
Reviewer Mr. J. Collins, Roads Engineer, Labour Construction Unit
Chapter 9 Land Use Planning and Soil Conservation
Mrs. N. 'Mota, Chief Conservation Officer, DCFLUP
Ms. N. Majara, Senior land Use Planner, DCFLUP
Mrs. Makhetha, Senior Physical Planner, LSPP
Reviewer Dr. M. Seitlheko, Senior Lecturer, Geography Department,
Chapter 10 Climate and Climate Change
Contributor Mr. B. Sekoli, Principal Meteorologist, DWA
Reviewer Dr. P. Tseki, Senior Lecturer, Chemistry Department, NUL
Chapter 11 Water Resources and Water Use
Dr. M. Mokhothu, Lecturer, Geography Department, NUL
Mr. T.C. Tšehlo, Hydrologist/Water Resources, LHDA
Reviewer Mr. S. Makhoalibe, Director, SADC Water Sector Coordination
Chapter 12 Biodiversity and Protected Areas
Contributor Mr. C. Mokuku, Lecturer, Biology Department, NUL
Reviewer Dr. S. Talukdar, Consultant
Chapter 13 Energy Resources and Energy Use
Contributor Mr. B. Kanetsi, Director, Department of Energy
Reviewer Mr. B. Leleka, Director, SADC-ELMS Coordination Unit
Chapter 14 The Urban Environment
Dr. Khalema, Lecturer, Chemistry Department, NUL
Mr. S. Setšabi, Lecturer, Geography Department, NUL
Reviewer Mr. M. P. Qobo, Director, Planning and Development,
Chapter 15 Environmental Policies, Legislation and Institutional Arrangements
Contributor Mr. H. Partow, United Nations Volunteer, NES
Reviewer Mr. B. Motsamai, Secretary General, NES
Chapter 16 Environmental Trends and Scenarios
Contributor Prof. Q. F, Chakela, Geography Department, NUL
In the context of the chapter, environment means the entirety of all
natural things. The main issues of concern are environmental integrity,
health and human well-being and resource sustainability. Economic development
is often defined in terms of either economic growth and social spending
indicators or the prevalence of long, healthy, knowledgeable and wealthy
lives among the inhabitants. Development is normally measured through instruments
like the political process, which aggregates social preferences. This aggregation
is based on social attributes such as per capita incomes, equitable distribution
of incomes available, and appropriate expenditures in health and education.
Increases in income levels lead to improved environmental management and
rehabilitation, and result in improvements in the human and biotic environments.
Income and income sources, such as migrant remittances and agriculture,
are examined. Real per capita income is found to have increased
only marginally since 1980, while real remittances have been declining
steadily. While, in recent years, inflation has declined to single
digits-reducing the erosion on income-unemployment has been rising. The
role of agriculture as a productive sector, and therefore a source
of income, has also been declining. All these factors have created
the conditions for an increase dependence on the environment to supplement
incomes. The conclusion is that pressure on the environment has increased
over time. Relatively high population growth rates and a high incidence
of poverty have exacerbated this pressure.
Core industrial activities are in textile and automotive products
and services. These continue to depend considerably on imported inputs
and therefore impose little pressure on Lesotho's natural resources and
Economic policy formulation remains the exclusive domain of the Ministry
of Economic Planning, with little participation-and subsequently scanty
commitment-by the general public. This has created a climate for
pursuing different economic objectives independently rather than comprehensively,
and makes it equally difficult to assess macroeconomic policy impacts on
the environment. An analysis of budget allocations and foreign aid negotiations
can be used to shed light on actual policy preferences. The indications
are that natural resources and the environment are yet to be prioritised
in macroeconomic policy.
Lesotho's membership in regional co-operation bodies has produced mixed
results. However, the regional integration goal of the Southern African
Development Community (SADC) shows the potential to bring about improvements
by rationalising resource use across states.
An examination of Lesotho's tenure rules governing crop and rangelands
indicates that the lack of exclusivity of rights and the cultural encouragement
of plural access inhibit potential land building investments as well as
possible changes in crop mix towards soil-saving investments.
THE HUMAN ENVIRONMENT
Three phases are identified in the development of the human environment
in Lesotho over time. Each is described in terms of the lifestyles (and
their effects) that people have created for themselves and their world
over the course of 200 years.
The first phase was characterised by small human populations with insignificant
population growth. People depended on nature for shelter and food and lived
in balance with animals and plants, which provided them with food and clothing.
The impact on the biophysical environment was minimal.
The second phase began with the arrival of sedentary people, who owned
domesticated animals and practised crop production. The environment was
characterised by permanent settlements, which became the foci of human
activities. Because of relative peace in the early part of this phase,
population numbers grew quickly. The harvesting of the environmental resources
intensified as more materials were used for building houses and providing
fuel wood. Land was cleared for cropping and pastures were subjected to
large herds of livestock. The end result was a human environment with an
economy out of balance, where people fought the environment to eke out
a living. Class differentiation based on wealth-measured in size of herds
and size of fields-was initiated. The wealthy were mostly chiefs and large
stock owners often related or favoured by them.
A massive movement of people into urban and peri-urban areas initiated
the third phase. The major characteristic of this phase was the introduction
of wealth concepts defined in terms of availability of money (cash income)
to the households. The phase was further characterised by rapid urbanisation,
an increase in the number of people in rural areas without access to land,
encroachment of settlements into prime agricultural land, and an increased
social class differentiation based on income levels (destitute, poor, middle
class and wealthy).
The distribution of the income classes varies with ecological zones,
types of occupations, urban/rural dimensions and employment, and influences
household access to health and sanitation services, education and mobility.
Environmental awareness seems to be lowest among the poor, even though
the wealthy generate more waste. Urban dwellers of all classes are more
aware of environmental pollution than rural communities.
CULTURAL AND HISTORICAL
The chapter begins with a brief description of the geological evolution
of Lesotho's landscape and of the process of its occupation by humans over
the past 100 000 years. Current evidence is then presented of traditional
environmental awareness, knowledge and conservation in Lesotho. The Sesotho
vocabulary is shown to contain literally thousands of words denominating
plants and animals-many of which are now extinct-as well as features of
the physical environment. Language as an indicator of environmental awareness
is recommended for in-depth studies since it is likely that formal education
has deprived many Basotho of their traditional environmental knowledge.
Examples are given of traditional environmental conservation and protection
measures enforced by the chieftainship system and, more recently Village
The palaeontological, archaeological and rock art heritage of Lesotho
is marginalised and needs firm support to ensure its preservation for future
generations. Currently, most of the work in these fields is done by foreigners
and archived outside Lesotho, due to lack of appropriate programmes and
policies in the country. Historic buildings and sites, museums and archives
are also an important part of Lesotho's heritage, but they too have not
been given the attention needed to ensure their sustainability.
Legislation exists but is fragmented and scattered in several acts and
regulations, administered by different ministries without collaboration.
The majority of these are out-dated and need amendment. Suggested improvements
in this regard include the timely publication of the Government Gazette,
the update of the Laws of Lesotho and their publication on CD-ROM for easy
The main identified threats to Lesotho's cultural and historical heritage
include modernisation and urbanisation-which modify the landscape and lead
to changes in lifestyles that downplay the importance of rural knowledge
and experience- and large development projects.
The analysis of the state of arable agricultural production focuses
on the nature of farming systems, soil management and the quality of the
productive land base. Crop production in Lesotho has a very narrow base
of genetic resources, and more research is required on the nature and depth
of the genetic resource pool in the country. The Genetic Resource programme
of the Ministry of Agriculture should, as a matter of urgency, address
itself to the filling of gaps in the data sets.
The gaps that need to be addressed in the data bases of land use and
farming systems include quantified changes in arable land, encroachment
of arable land by residential and industrial demands, landlessness, and
the use of agrochemicals in general. The liberalisation of trade in agricultural
commodities between Lesotho and South Africa will lead to definite changes
in crop prices and import trends.
Population density and landlessness are important indicars of the pressure
on the environment. However, the monitoring of landlessness in relation
to agricultural land is not well documented
The production environment in Lesotho is unstable and
food security adversely. When a production system is not at equilibrium
with its environmental base, alternative systems are required. In Lesotho,
the expansion of mixed and multiple cropping s@,stems featuring a diversified
genetic base is key feature of our quest for sustainability. The extension
sen7ce should encourage changes in smallholder management practices which
require little or no additional cash resources and which minimize risk,
RANGELAND AND LIVESTOCK
The chapter provides a detailed description of the vegetated areas of
the country, rangelands conditions, livestock population d management,
The ever-changing relationship among humans over time as led to the
development of policies and strategies to minimise the negative impacts
of the changes. These include livestock and range development polices and
strategies. The major strategies are the elimination of transhumance, adjudication
of grazing rights and creation of Grazing Associations. These have proved
ineffective, which has led to the elaboration of the Agricultural Sector
Investment Programme (ASIP), to which donors will be asked to contribute
in a co-ordinated manner.
The analysis of the range-livestock complex indicates that, while the
condition of Lesotho's rangelands has been progressively deteriorating,
changes in livestock populations have been fluctuating only slightly. Although
this situation may suggest that an equilibrium has been reached between
the state of rangelands and the livestock they support, the equilibrium
is a negative one given the fact that productivity of livestock has been
declining. This is evident for the more readily quantifiable indicators,
such as wool and mohair yields and quality, and less so for beef, as its
quality is difficult to monitor because of sales in various outlets.
The negative trends are, however, reversible because Lesotho's rangelands have a high regenerative capacity on being rested for one or more grazing seasons-and thereafter grazed according to their carrying capacity. This has been proven to be feasible if, (i) in the promotion of range and livestock improvement programmes, livestock owners are regarded and supported as the managers-and not simply the users of the rangeland and (ii) their collective responsibility and endeavours are mobilised into group efforts through the formation of range/ livestock management associations, such as Grazing Associations, for the development of a communal grazing resource.
The current policies and strategies, centred on the Range Management
Area Programme and Grazing Associations, thus offer favourable prospects
for improving the state of Lesotho's rangeland resources and livestock
FORESTS, TREES, SHRUBS AND AFFORESTATION
The forest resources of Lesotho consist of five groups, based on the pattern of ownership: indigenous tress and shrubs; government-owned plantations; privately owned tree lots; trees belonging to individual households. and trees in the urban environment. The total area covered by native trees is 34,685 hectares. The national average crown cover varies between 11 and 21 percent.
Natural forests provide valuable resources to the rural people for fuel,
construction, medicines, and shelter and browse for livestock. However,
the over-exploitation of Lesotho's woody resources for fuel production
and household construction, combined with the overgrazing of shrubs, has
placed them under great ,stress. The loss of natural vegetation continues
to be a problem, with no signs of successful control or regeneration programmes.
Woodlots planted through government and donor-supported projects dominate the woody biomass stock of the country, but have a skewed distribution by district. The sustainability of woodlots is currently hindered by severe management problems. Individually owned trees barely satisfy household needs, although 86 percent of households are reported to own fruit trees.
There is evidence that trees have provided some measure of stabilisation of soils on steep slopes and of water flows. They also provide shelter belts for homesteads and livestock against heavy windstorms. Other positive environmental impacts of trees include their aesthetic value, the fact that they act as carbon sinks, and the improvement of soil fertility in agroforestry. However, in some areas, woodlots have caused the drying up of springs. Certain species of exotic trees also have negative environmental impacts -eucalypts, for instance, produce chemicals that inhibit the growth of other vegetation.
Forestry policy and legislation exist and are implemented by four institutions:
the Ministry of Agriculture's Forestry Division, NG0s, the National Environment
Secretariat and the Ministry of Local Government. In order to meet the
management needs of trees and shrubs in Lesotho, programmes are currently
undertaken by the Social Forestry Project, Care Lesotho and Lesotho Durham
Link. In addition, monitoring activities have been initiated within some
selected areas, where seeds for indigenous trees are produced. The major
production activities are those connected with tree nurseries in all the
The principal environmental effects of mining activities in Lesotho vary with the type of activity, but are mainly related to soil erosion, water pollution by slurry from diamond mines, air and noise pollution from quarrying and stone crushers, the disturbance of habitats for flora and fauna, the creation of unsightly scars where quarries are left un-rehabilitated, and the encroachment of private property in the case of clay mining. At present there is insufficient quantitative data on the magnitude of these effects. The major constraints identified include lack of qualified environmental personnel involved with mining, inadequate knowledge of the environmental impacts of mining activities and poor record-keeping and monitoring.
In order to mitigate the negative environmental impacts of mining, the
following recommendations are made:
While it creates social and economic benefits-like employment opportunities
and support to infrastructural development - the mining industry has primarily
negative impacts on the environment, with most operations carried out without
due regard to ecological concerns. However, the industry's attitude towards
the environment should improve as a result of on-going policy, legislation
and awareness creation initiatives.
The road network in Lesotho is relatively young and still under development.
It currently covers approximately 5,000 km, mainly in the lowlands. Four
classes of roads exist in the country: bitumen-surfaced roads, double-
and single-lane gravel roads, and main access tracks (suitable for four-wheel
The road network has various direct and indirect environmental impacts
at different phases of its development- construction, operation/ rehabilitation
and maintenance. The identified impacts include soil loss during the construction
phase and from spill-over water from road surfaces and culverts; damage
to crop land and unique ecosystems during the construction phase; the destruction
of water sources (springs) and river pollution during all phases; loss
of landscape integrity through indiscriminate dumping of spoil materials;
water pollution; and rapid siltation of dams and ponds. There are also
socioeconomic impacts, such as the encroachment on communities' limited
arable land without adequate compensation; and family problems in villages
adjacent to roads work camps arising from the extended presence of male
LAND USE PLANNING
AND SOIL CONSERVATION
The chapter reviews land management policies over time and identifies
and analyses problems associated with land use, land use planning, and
soil and water conservation. The problems identified include: continuing
land degradation despite a long history of extensive efforts to combat
it; poor performance in the management and implementation of development
programmes related to land resources; and a decline in agriculture's contribution
to the national economy due to falling production and yields. This state
of affairs is attributed to natural soil conditions, climate, topography,,
and management factors. These factors are exacerbated by poverty, a growing
landlessness among rural communities and urbanisation, which has put more
demand on food production.
The environmental implications of the identified problems and constraints include:
In addition, both settlements and agriculture have encroached on fragile
ecosystems such as wetlands, resulting in the loss of unique habitats.
The major institutional constraints identified are a shortage of manpower-which
results in plan implementation lagging behind the requirements of development;
illegal land development practices, which inhibit effective planning; and
lack of an effective land pricing and marketing system.
Based on the analysis of the identified problems, environmental implications
and constraints in programme implementation, recommendations are made on
the review of existing policies to resolve constraints, the enactment of
new laws, capacity building, and increased public awareness of environmental
CLIMATE AND CLIMATE CHANCE
Four factors determine the climate of Lesotho, namely latitudinal position,
altitude and topography, continentality, and ocean currents in the Indian
and Atlantic oceans. Sectors and activities that are directly or indirectly
dependent on climate include health, agricultural production, renewable
energy resources development and tourism.
The climate of Lesotho is characterised by the occurrence of dry spells
and wet spells over recorded time. These climatic fluctuations have had
serious impacts on the environment. The impacts associated with dry spells
include food shortages, famine, disease epidemics, invasion by exotic plants
and destructive insects, dust bowls and the initiation of down-cutting
by rivers. The longest dry spell in the 200-year record occurred between
1991 and 1995. The occurrence of dry spells has been found to be correlated
to the EL Niño phenomenon-an abnormal increase in sea surface
temperature-while wet spells are related to La Niña conditions.
Lesotho is expected to experience a change in temperature and precipitation
patterns, toward dryer and hotter conditions. In addition, the intensity
and frequency of extreme events such as floods and drought are expected
to increase, especially in the western and northern lowlands. The impacts
of climate change in Lesotho will vary from sector to sector. Water resources
will be affected negatively by the reduction of precipitation and increase
in temperature. This will result in an increase in evaporation losses and
a decrease in runoff and groundwater recharge. Rangeland conditions may
deteriorate-and ultimately be destroyed-by changes in climate, leading
to a change in the quality of livestock and livestock products. The present
indigenous forests may change into semi-arid types, while agricultural
production will decline, resulting in food shortages.
Planned activities to mitigate the negative impacts of climate change
include vulnerability assessments, development of strategies to counter
the effects of climate change, and the preparation of a national action
plan. Other recommended activities include institutional strengthening,
capacity building and raising of awareness, and the monitoring of greenhouse
WATER RESOURCES AND WATER
The Department of Water Affairs, in collaboration with nine other public
organisations, is responsible for water quality and water resources management.
The quality of surface water resources is not well documented, but groundwater
quality is generally good. The problem areas include high levels of alkalinity,
iron concentrations and fluoride contamination.
Poor management practices and improvement of infrastructure have had
serious negative impacts on water resources, through the destruction of
wetlands and their hydrological functions, changes in water regimes due
to overgrazing and inappropriate cropping practices, and increased sediment
production caused by mining and roads construction.
Several institutions are involved in water resources management. The
institutional arrangement is complicated by factors such as ill-defined
roles, lack of an overall co-ordinating institution, and difference in
weight among the institutions. The main legislation in the water sector
is the 1978 Water Resources Act, which provides for use, control and conservation
of water resources. However, legislation relevant to water resources is
scattered in several orders and acts administered by different departments
without any consistency or overall guidelines. Lesotho's draft Environment
Bill, prepared by NES, provides a rational way of consolidating all environmental
laws, including water resources. Another piece of legislation dealing with
water resources is the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP) Treaty entered
into by Lesotho and South Africa. The treaty provides for the protection
of quality and quantity of water in the LHWP area, but does not consider
other relevant components of utilisation of shared water courses between
the two countries.
Several recommendations are made to improve water resources management
and use in Lesotho. They include the review of settlement patterns to improve
service delivery; capacity building in water resources institutions to
realise the delivery of 30 litres/capita/day within 150 metre radius; financial
support to water resources institutions through LHWP-generated funds, the
application of the "polluter pays" principle; the implementation of EIA
for all development programmes; and the creation of an enabling environment
for development in order to enhance the capacity to utilise water resources
for sustainable development.
BIODIVERSITY AND PROTECTED
Changes in biodiversitv in Lesotho are manifested by changes in flora
and fauna, as revealed in historical records, and by losses of habitats
such as the disappearance and reduction in number and sizes of marshes,
spring bogs and reed meadows. Their occurrence in the past is still reflected
in place names. All big game has disappeared from Lesotho due to over-hunting
and habitat invasion by humans, leaving only five species of large mammals
limited to mountain areas. Sixteen bird species have become extinct since
the 1940s. Records show that, of the 285 recorded species of birds, 176
are classified as currently rare.
Lesotho is generallv a grassland biome with six grassland types. The
rangelands are reported to be deteriorating at an alarming rate, as indicated
by the degree of invasion by Karroo bush (12%), proportion of rangelands
classified as degraded (16%), and extensive damage to wetlands and afro-alpine
habitats resulting from human activities.
Flora and fauna species diversity is indicated by the current level
of endemism among plants (0.2), the increase in number of threatened species
(45 within 15 years), and the low diversity of fish, reptiles, and amphibians
(9, 29, and 20 species respectively). However, Lesotho has a high population
of invertebrates (993 species), of which only 4 are rare and possibly threatened.
Measures employed for biodiversity conservation include
in situ conservation
in the form of protected areas (national parks, nature reserves, forest
reserves) and traditional practices such as maboella (reserve grazing):
and ex-situ conservation such as a botanical garden, an arboretum,
home gardens for medicinal plants. and seed collection to improve the genetic
pool of indigenous plants (especially trees). Traditional knowledge and
management systems have not received the attention they deserve, despite
the potential contribution they can make to the management of biological
Other than international treaties and conventions to which Lesotho is
a party, the country lacks comprehensive national laws. However, an Environment
Bill has been drafted and awaits enactment.
Poor management, rapid population growth, excessive exploitation, and
disturbance by humans threaten the biological resources of Lesotho.
Human activities fragment and destroy unique habitats. Measures suggested
as remedies include environmental education/sensitisation, the enforcement
of existing laws, the provision of incentives and community participation.
In addition, research, monitoring and evaluation and assessment activities
are required to enable informed decision-making and proper management.
ENERGY RESOURCES AND
Energy resources in Lesotho are all of the renewable type, including
biomass fuels (wood, shrubs, crop residues and dung), hydropower, solar
energy and wind energy. Biomass energy resources, whose potential is estimated
at 19,890 TJ/year, meet 76 percent of the country's energy demand. Exploitable
hydropower resources are estimated at 1,400 Gwh per year, and fall far
short of demand-as reflected by the need for imports from South Africa.
Fossil fuels are not available in sufficient amounts in Lesotho, but the
minor exploitation of coal seems to have been carried out in some areas.
Petroleum products account for 17 percent of the energy demand; and
coal and electricity for 3 percent and 5 percent, mostly for household
heating and cooking. Solar energy sources have only a marginal contribution
in the energy use, while wind power is not recommended for development
because of low wind speeds and frequent damages by wind storms.
Energy-environment issues in Lesotho centre around land degradation
and poverty. Energy affects the environment both negatively and positively.
The negative environmental effects of energy generation in the country
include the loss of land due to inundation as well as for other uses (like,
for instance, the 'Muela power plant and its reservoir, where the flora
has also been impacted negatively), and the clearing of vegetation for
transmission lines. The main negative impact of energy use is the depletion
of vegetation cover and attendant land degradation. Tree planting programmes
and other land management practices, including energy conservation, have
not arrested these negative impacts. This is mainly because of poverty,
an inadequate energy policy, population growth, and climatic and physical
factors such as drought recurrence and a rugged terrain. Additional factors
include inadequate institutional capacity and trained professional personnel
in the energy sector. These impact negatively on health, the economy, social
development and human well-being.
The positive impacts of energy are in the economic, health and social
domains. The use of renewable energy sources has the potential to increase
the positive impacts-especially in the rural areas. Lesotho's consumption
of fossil fuels is relatively small but it is necessary to measure
pollution levels on a regular basis.
The energy policy needs to be reviewed to reflect contemporary
thinking on energy and sustainable development.
THE URBAN ENVIRONMENT
The urban environment is treated at two levels: the internal living
and working environment, and the outer city as a habitat for urban dwellers.
The chapter specifically highlights some major and emerging environmental
concerns associated with urbanisation in Lesotho. The issues discussed
include urban growth and serialisation, air and water pollution, solid
waste management, noise pollution, working and living conditions, human
health, and associated societal responses.
Urban growth is currently estimated at 4.3 percent and is mainly due
to urban-rural migration and an increase in the number of settlements classified
as urban. Its identified negative environmental impacts include the inadequate
provision of services, poor amenities, encroachment into prime agricultural
land and green belts, and the poor siting of housing relative to industries.
Industrialisation in Lesotho involves the relocation of large-scale
industries from the developed countries to avoid stringent environmental
regulations. Industrial and commercial activities generate waste products
and thus impact negatively on the environment. However, data is currently
not available on the amounts and types of waste generated, including vehicular
The quality of water used in urban areas is related to the three major
sources of water supply-rivers/streams, boreholes and natural springs.
The principal pollutants of potable water include industrial effluent,
sewage systems and leakage from rubbish dumps. Urban water is reported
to have high levels of coliform, but turbidity, hardness and nitrates are
at acceptable levels. The sewage system efficiency is at 84 percent.
Other hazards in the external urban environment include the management
of solid waste using substandard and poorly located sanitary landfills,
and noise pollution from traffic, construction machines and industrial
activities. Environmental impacts identified in the working environment
include occupational hazards in the form of diseases and accidents.
Although data is lacking on air and water pollution, and generation
and type of waste products, it is observed that these pose environmental
hazards in the urban environment. The identified sources include emissions
from vehicles, dust from gravel roads, the disposal of solid waste from
industries and households and the use of fossil and biomass fuels. They
affect resources through bacteriological concentration, eutrophication
of water bodies and high concentration of nitrates in piped water.
Housing conditions are characterised by overcrowding, poor ventilation,
lack of essential water and sanitation services, and space pollution through
garbage accumulation around housing units. Health conditions in the housing
environment are inadequate, as indicated by the incidence of STD infections,
reported cases of TB and prevalence of HIV among TB patients. Other illnesses
that reflect poor urban conditions include bronchitis and water-borne diseases.
The responses by society to these negative environmental conditions
include changes of public perceptions and attitudes, development of scientific,
economic and regulatory tools for environmental understanding and management,
strengthening of national policies and institutions, adoption of international
policies and actions, and legislation, regulation and enforcement.
POLICIES, LEGISLATION AND INSTITUTIONAL ARRANGEMENTS
Several phases are identified in the types of institutional framework
for land and environmental resources in Lesotho. Each had its own guiding
principles and institutional arrangements for the management, protection
and use of land resources.
The first phase was guided by the principle that land and environmental
resources were communally held by the citizens, who had an inalienable
right of access to the resources governed by an unwritten code of laws
and traditions. The system of land resource administration was decentralised
and depended on self-sustaining chieftaincy.
The second phase was initiated by foreign incursions into the lands
of the Basotho which culminated in the declaration of Lesotho as a Crown
colony and in a reduction in the land area. The new institutions of district
commissioners undermined and weakened the chieftaincy. Laws relating to
land management were passed without public consultation, and imposed in
written form on illiterate people. The new institutional arrangements radically
altered the relationship between the people and their environment, alienating
them from their land resources by putting Lesotho permanently into the
global money economy.
The third phase came with Lesotho's Independence in 1966. Although very
little changed in the infrastructural arrangements for natural resources
management, the coming of independence raised several expectations. These
included freedom from dependence on the South African economy, self-sufficiency
in food production, industrial development, and increased wealth through
employment opportunities. Two strategies were followed to realise these
expectations, namely programmes to improve arable agriculture and the establishment
of LNDC to initiate, promote and facilitate industrial development and
thus raise the level of income and employment.
The fourth phase was initiated as a follow-up to the 1987 publication
of the Brundtland Commission's report, Our Common Future. The guiding
principle for this phase was the incorporation of environmental concerns
in economic development in order to ensure sustainable development. The
road to achieving sustainable development for Lesotho started with the
United Nations Conference on Environment and Development and the formulation
of the National Environmental Action Plan (NEAP). This has been refined
and modified by subsequent documents, such as the National Paper on Environment
and Development in Lesotho (1992), the National Action Plan to Implement
Agenda 21, the National Environment Policy (1996), and the draft Environment
Bill of 1997.
Problem areas identified include the quality of environmental legislation
and the implementation of environmental laws. Existing statutes governing
natural resource management and the protection of the environment are inconsistent.
inadequate and un-consolidated. They also overlap and are often in conflict
with one another. Their implementation is very poor because they are inaccessible
(out of print, written only in English, and outdated). In addition, they
depend on coercive measures, and are often reactive rather than preventive.
Other factors that contribute to poor implementation of environmental legislation
include poorly trained personnel, inadequate financial resources, weak
administrative and organisational structures, institutional conflicts,
scarcity of monitoring equipment and lack of environmental education and
public awareness programmes. Legal reforms were initiated as early as 1989
to address the shortcomings in environmental legislation and in institutional
capacity. This has culminated in the drafting of the Environmental Bill
and in the establishment of NES to spearhead and co-ordinate environmental
issues and ensure compliance with international conventions and treaties.
The current trends in the key variables describing the state of the
environment in Lesotho indicate an unstable and unsustainable system characterised
by loss of productivity and ongoing environmental degradation. The responses
of society to reverse this state of affairs show little success and are
marked by very poor performance levels.
If the negative trends are not curbed or reversed and the positive ones
reinforced, the future of the Lesotho's environment is gloomy. However,
the resilience shown by the country, the level of adaptation of innovative
land management methods among the Basotho over the years, and the current
realisation of several unsustainable approaches to development provide
hope for a better future -if recommended strategies for sustainable development
are implemented efficiently.