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Centre for Applied Social Sciences (CASS) Programme for Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS)


Policy and institutional dimensions of integrated river basin management:
Broadening stakeholders participatory processes in the Inkomati River Basin of South Africa and the Pangani River Basin of Tanzania


Claudious Chikozho
Contact: c.chikozho@cgiar.org

Centre for Applied Social Sciences (CASS) & Programme for Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS)

April 2005

SARPN acknowledges permission from PLAAS and CASS to post this document.
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Abstract

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.

Introduction

The last two to three decades have witnessed a remarkable paradigm shift in the discipline of water resources management. 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’. The rapid and wide adoption of IWRM (through national water sector reforms) raises the question whether a new form of CBNRM is emerging and if that is so, to what extent it is more effective in resolving the serious problems and challenges facing rural communities in Southern Africa and the rest of the developing world. Most countries in the region (including Tanzania and South Africa) have initiated water sector reform programmes that stress comprehensive river basin management, stakeholder participation, cost recovery and technology to promote water use efficiency, and resource sustainability. The policy and institutional dimensions of the river basin as a management unit are still in their infancy and governance of the water sector remains problematic for most countries in the region. Using case studies from the Inkomati basin in South Africa and the Pangani basin in Tanzania, this paper explores these policy and institutional dimensions in order to come up with solutions to the gap between policy and practice. The key question addressed is: what are the institutional arrangements and policies at different scales that can create an enabling environment for genuine stakeholder involvement in river basin management and improve the livelihoods of water users?

It is important to note that the assumptions of scale, boundaries, appropriate institutions and procedures underlying river basin management models are not as self-evident as they seem, and this has a bearing on lessons that IWRM provides for CBNRM (Wester & Warner 2002). This paper explores in detail the processes and tensions faced in implementing IWRM and draws lessons for CBNRM. It relies mainly on the assessment of secondary data to explore emerging river basin management strategies in sub-Saharan Africa. The assessment includes reference to grey literature from presentations made during regional and international water conferences and workshops. This assessment is backed by insights from key informants in the Inkomati and Pangani river basins. The case studies demonstrate some of the interesting conflict mitigation strategies that can be applied where multiple conflicts and potential conflicts over the control, use and management of water, are a reality.



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