Title page for ETD etd-09122005-153357

Document Type Master's Dissertation
Author Mulder, Marthinus Wessel
Email wmulder@mweb.co.za
URN etd-09122005-153357
Document Title A political policy analysis of the integrated water resource management approach in South Africa’s water policy (1998 – 2001)
Degree M (Political and Policy Studies)
Department Political Sciences
Advisor Name Title
Prof A du Plessis
  • water management area
  • water policy
  • water resources
  • South African water politics
  • public choice
  • integrated water resource management
  • Dublin principles
  • decision-making
  • catchment management agency
  • bureaucracy
Date 2004-10-09
Availability unrestricted
The aim of the study emanates from the research question: Is the incorporation of the integrated water resource management (IWRM) approach in South Africa’s water policy, from a political point of view, appropriate? The IWRM approach, as applied to developing countries, originated in developed countries with predominantly homogeneous societies where there is a broad commitment to democratic principles, the free market system and individualism. Societies in developing countries do not necessarily share the same characteristics associated with those in developed countries.

South Africa, classified as a developing country, has a multicultural society that reflects an income disparity and two major cultures, namely a modernised Western and a traditional African culture. As a result two subsidiary research questions follow: Can the commitment and impartiality of all the stakeholders that partake in the decision-making processes of water institutions at all levels be ensured? Is it possible to establish small, efficient and financially viable bureaucratic structures (water institutions) at the level of water management areas (WMA)?

The study uses the public choice theory to assess the IWRM approach in selected developed and developing countries. The applicability of public choice concepts with reference to the differences between Western and African cultures are briefly alluded to. It also defines the IWRM approach and certain IWRM elements that have political implications for society at large.

The study describes specific elements of the IWRM approach in France and Australia and the relative successes thereof in terms of the public choice theory. The implementation of the IWRM approach in Indochina and selective developing countries in Sub-Saharan Africa are described to highlight certain institutional problems, inadequate financial resources, the lack of capacity and various cultural aspects that inhibit the efficiency and effectiveness of the IWRM approach.

In the analysis of South Africa’s water policy, the study found that the multicultural nature of society, the unequal levels of economic development and the limited level of technological and scientific knowledge, will make it extremely difficult to implement the IWRM approach without contextualising it. According to the public choice theory, the net benefits of a policy for a society must outweigh the costs. If not, the policy needs to be either adjusted or abandoned. Since none of the proposed catchment management agencies (CMA) were established between 1998 and 2001, it is not possible to come to a verifiable conclusion. However, the study indicates that the opportunity costs of the IWRM approach are likely to outweigh the benefits for society.

Other aspects that necessitate a re-evaluation of South Africa’s water policy are the holistic element of the IWRM approach and the demarcation of WMAs. The study identifies three options: The first option is to revert back to the riparian principle. The second option is to either revisit the concept of public participation, or to re-delineate the WMAs. The third and most favourable option is to abandon the concept of public participation. It would not only negate the need for CMAs (and indirectly WMAs), but would also greatly simplify the management of water resources.

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