Policy and institutional dimensions of integrated river basin management in South Africa and Tanzania

Submitted by Celine Dondeynaz on 24 January, 2011 - 18:25


In recent years, water governance has undergone a remarkable paradigm shift. Old notions of water resources management dominated by a supply-orientation and reliance on civil engineering science and technical solutions to water problems have been discarded in favour of a ‘softer’ governance regime that embraces stakeholder participatory processes. This new regime is strongly underpinned by neo-liberal approaches that emphasise, inter alia, decentralised management structures, a ‘rolling back of the state’ from the frontiers of management and development, and treating water as an ‘economic good’. Consequently, most countries (including Tanzania and South Africa) have initiated water sector reform programmes that stress comprehensive river basin management based on integrated water resources management (IWRM) principles, user involvement in management, cost recovery and sustainable resource use. Within this new paradigm, many elements of conventional community-based natural resources management (CBNRM) approaches are quite apparent. Drawing mainly from the assessment of secondary data, this paper uses case studies from the Inkomati River Basin of South Africa and the Pangani River Basin of Tanzania to scrutinise the IWRM paradigm and its relevance to the evolution of CBNRM. It questions the strength of policies and policy-making processes which have led to the emergence of IWRM as the dominant discourse in the water sector. It identifies critical factors for genuine stakeholder involvement in decision making at the basin level in order for more relevant and effective policies to be made. It focuses on conflict resolution as an important issue around which dialogue and negotiation platforms can revolve. Stakeholder participation in river basin management is depicted as a complex, sociopolitical process that must consider and reconcile a range of interests across sectors and users in the basin. This paper posits that while forums for dialogue are often presented as fair and inclusive, there is a need to note that when they are designed and controlled by those in positions of power, they may become artificial – including certain stakeholders, and excluding others.

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