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Institutional dimensions of Water Resource Management in South Africa: Socio-cultural perspectives
Expanded Title:Background Water is an essential resource in the lives of all South Africans and South Africa is a water-poor country. Hence it is essential that South Africa’s limited water resources should be managed with great care in order to sustain people’s lives, including those of the poorest living in rural areas. The transition to democracy in 1994 in South Africa paved the way for a law reform process, which resulted in new legislation that encapsulates the principles of equity, sustainability and efficiency as enshrined in the Constitution. This law reform process saw the repeal of old Acts such as the 1913 Land Act and the 1956 Water Act, to make way for new Acts such as the National Water Act (NWA), no. 36 of 1998, and the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA), no. 107 of 1998. The NWA developed strategies such as the National Water Research Strategy (NWRS) (2004) to ensure equitable and sustainable water resource management (WRM) through the establishment of new water management areas (WMAs) and new water management institutions (WMIs). An important feature of these WMIs, namely the Catchment Management Agencies (CMAs) and Water User Associations (WUAs), is to ensure an integrated approach to WRM by devolving power to manage water resources to relevant stakeholders at the local level. The new structures in the NWA make provision for newly elected local officials within the water management structures. One of the main challenges of these structures is to integrate informal rules and cultural practices that govern water access and use and to define the roles and responsibilities of traditional authorities. Therefore, the rationale for this study was to understand the relevance of socio-cultural issues in the new WMIs in South Africa, with special focus on the WUAs. Objectives The following were the main objectives of the study: • Investigate and understand the effectiveness of new WMIs, with special focus on the WUAs. • Assess the relevance of socio-cultural issues (traditional governance systems, cultural and religious practices) in the new WMIs in South Africa. • Identify typical WRM problems that arise as a result of lack of understanding of the socio-cultural dimensions of WRM. • Propose recommendations on the role of traditional leadership and cultural practices in the management of water resources and on mechanisms for strengthening institutional arrangements at the local level. Approach This research utilised methodological and investigator triangulation and employed various methods including workshops, transect walks, interviews, review of relevant documents and archival materials, as well as field observations. The use of multiple data sources to examine the same dimension of a research problem enhanced the validation process, by ensuring that weaknesses inherent in one approach were counterbalanced by strengths in another. Multiple observers in the research process also enhanced the reliability of the data by comparing data from different individuals for consistency. The Mzimvubu to Keiskamma WMA no. 12, in the Eastern Cape, was selected as a research site as it illustrates typical WRM challenges in rural South Africa. Within this WMA the jurisdiction areas of two adjoining WUAs, namely Masikhanye and eDikeni, were designated as the study area. At the outset of the research, participatory workshops were held with members of these WUAs in order to gain information and insights on cultural and religious practices associated with water use, as well as the role of traditional governance systems in WRM in the area. A secondary purpose of the workshops was to identify and discuss issues and challenges regarding the process of establishing the WUAs. In the study area, transect walks were undertaken with members of the WUAs, in order to identify areas and sites, in or adjacent to water courses, that were considered important in terms of religious and cultural practices. These transect walks were also important in validating the data from the workshops. Following these walks, important sites where cultural practices and religious ceremonies were practised, were demarcated on a map. This information was then discussed and verified with a broader group of WUA participants, including interim WUA committee members, at workshops held in both WUAs. Semi-structured interviews were also conducted with key stakeholders involved in water provision and management in the study area. The interviews focused largely on investigating the role played by traditional leaders and other functionaries, customary rules and cultural practices in historic and existing WMIs in the study area.
Date Published:01/11/2009
Document Type:Research Report
Document Subjects:Water Resource Management/IWRM - Planning and development, Water Resource Management/IWRM - Water Governance
Document Keywords:Ground Water, Policy and regulation
Document Format:Report
Document File Type:pdf
Research Report Type:Standard
WRC Report No:1698/1/09
ISBN No:978-1-77005-912-2
Authors:Sowman M; Hasler R
Originator:WRC
Organizations:University of Cape Town
Document Size:2 918 KB
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