The World Bank has been involved in countless dam projects across the globe. It is reported that almost half of the projects in Africa have succeeded. Below is the reason Associated Press gives for the failure of the Lesotho Highlands water project.
Project: Lesotho Highlands water project
Donor: World Bank, European Investment Bank, African Development Bank
Cost: $3.5 billion
Where is went wrong: The project to divert fresh water from the mountains for sale to South Africa and for electricity began in 1986. But the electricity proved too expensive for most people, and the diversion of so much water caused environmental and economic havoc downstream. The development fund raised from selling the water was shut down in 2003. The courts convicted three of the world’s largest construction firms on corruption charges and the project’s chief executive was jailed. Tens of thousands of people whose lives were ruined by the diversion are still waiting for compensation.
Clearly there is a problem here with the corruption and developmental problems that ensued but I am questioning who is to blame. Clearly the contractors who exploited the people of Lesotho are in part to blame for the failed project but they were rightly charged. I have a major issue with the autonomy of the World Bank. They have immunity from the world’s legal systems and that is a travesty. The tens of thousands of people awaiting compensation practically have no one to sue, no legal rights against the Bank that funded the project that displaced them in the first place. The Bank also is at fault for not foreseeing the governmental problems that might ensue. Entrusting that kind of money into an unsteady government is a risky move and almost inevitably results in a failed venture.
However, the World Bank is not all to blame. Though I believe it would have been smart of them to keep a hard in the development and oversight of the project, given that they have invested so much money into the project, at some point the people of Lesotho have to hold themselves and their government accountable for any actions or projects involving their state. This dam has great potential to produce much needed revenue for the country but they will never reach that stage until they are able to settle the issues with corruption and fund distribution.