In the southern African country of Lesotho, a series of earthquakes has occurred recently because of the filling of a reservoir. For more than a year, seven villages around the reservoir of Katse dam have been damaged due to tremors. In the village of Mapeleng, 11 houses were made uninhabitable forcing residents to leave. Reservoir-induced seismicity is a widely recognised but a little understood phenomenon.
The 182-m high dam is one of the five dams in the World Bank-sponsored Lesotho Highlands Water Project, slated to divert water from Lesotho's rivers to South Africa's Gauteng province. Although the dam is supposed to withstand an earthquake of a magnitude of 6.5 on the Richter scale within a 20-km range, the region has experienced earthquakes of a magnitude of six although the dam has not been built yet.
Lord Pottinger, director, Southern Africa Program for the International Rivers Network, said, "Mapeleng residents whose homes were dangerously damaged have been living in inadequate, uninsulated sheds for more than a year now. Given that the project's highly complex engineering works are proceeding on schedule, there is no reason why the social and environmental aspects of the project should lag so far behind stated benchmarks."
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