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Water SA

On-line version ISSN 1816-7950

Abstract

DU TOIT, Derick  and  POLLARD, Sharon. Updating public participation in IWRM: a proposal for a focused and structured engagement with Catchment Management Strategies. Water SA [online]. 2008, vol.34, n.6, pp. 707-713. ISSN 1816-7950.

Despite the strong emphasis on public participation in the National Water Act (NWA), South Africa has yet to implement a comprehensive and functional approach to public engagement at the level of Water Management Areas. Part of the problem is that actual requirements are not explicitly articulated anywhere. This has led to the situation where public participatory processes are poorly conceptualised, misdirected and often perceived as confusing by stakeholders. 'Participation fatigue' is the consequence of this accompanied by a growing frustration with the implementation of the content of the Act. The intention for decentralised democratic water resources management is consequently seriously jeopardised if the public participation processes are not clearly presented in the public domain. In this paper we draw on a number of sources, namely a national pilot integrated catchment management programme called the Save the Sand Project initiated in the north-eastern part of SA, a Water Research Commission project on public participation and a DWAF project that funded the exploration of public participation in the Sand River Catchment. The latter (2005 -2007) supported a better understanding of public participation processes and dynamics in a high-density rural catchment, the findings from which are reported here. Additionally this paper is referenced against the current discourse on public participation in water resources aimed at elucidating public participation in integrated water resource management (IWRM) in South Africa. The focus of the work reported in this paper is specifically on the development and implementation of catchment management strategies as the locus of decentralised, democratised, participatory water resource management. In this paper we start out by discussing how complexities surrounding public engagement might present newly established catchment management agencies (CMAs) with serious challenges and then move on to a proposed framework for focusing public engagement on specific IWRM tasks. The framework outlines tasks where multi-stakeholder platforms collaboratively design strategic water management actions that are assembled as the catchment management strategy (CMS), a statutory obligation for CMAs

Keywords : public participation; catchment management strategies; National Water Act; integrated water resource management.

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