The Shell Technology for Development Award
Short-listed: Hunting Technical Services
Construction of, on average, 300 large dams begins in developing countries every year. As part of the Mohale dam scheme in Lesotho's highlands, which will provide water for South Africa, Hunting Technical Services was asked to ensure that everyone moved because of the dam is as least as well off afterwards as before. To collect and handle the necessary date, Hunting adapted a computerised approach, initially devised by the World Bank. It is called ARMS (Acquisition and Resettlement Management Systems).
In the past involuntary resettlement was an unsatisfactory aspect of dam building. Rapid solutions were often sought, to make land quickly available for construction. Often also, countries had no compensation and resettlement policy. Little regard was paid to whether the people resettled would have enough to live on in the areas to which they were moved.
In recent years this has changed. All major projects funded by the World Bank and involving involuntary resettlement must observe a bank directive. The guiding principle of the directive is that the welfare of the displaced and their host communities must at least be maintained and preferably improved. Hunting carried out a study to make sure this happens for people displaced by the Mohale dam. The study had to reflect the views and hopes of the communities affected and of the communities which would be their hosts. It also had to:
- Thoroughly understand the social and economic status of the people affected
- Quantify the impact on the affected communities and their resources
- Consult the people concerned effectively
- Draw up procedures for compensating households and communities for loss of resources and means of livelihood
- Identify choices for resettlement and development
- Prepare a robust and flexible resettlement and development plan
Hunting adopted ARMS as a method for ensuring that every household's wishes would become reality. About 500 households in all are having to move and some have gone already. Although people are obliged to move, the community liaison assistants who went to see them presented resettlement as something attractive. The Lesotho highlands are harsh in winter and many people welcomed a chance to move somewhere pleasanter and possibly near relatives. ARMS is based on identification numbers which link households to their assets such as land and buildings. It enables what they are receiving in compensation to be checked against what they had before.
The Lesotho Highlands Water Project, of which the Mohale Dam forms part, is one of the world's biggest construction schemes. It comprises four reservoirs, nearly 150 miles of tunnel and a hydropower plant which will supply most of Lesotho's electricity. The primary aim is to bring water from the Orange River's headquarters to the Industrial heartland of South Africa via the river Vaal.