Public participation through Catchment Management Forums/Committees
South Africa is at a point where, after a complete revision of its water and sanitation policies, it needs to turn its attention to national implementation. The new water policies and associated legislation are not only about ensuring adequate quality and quantity of water for human need, they are also about protecting the resources available for current and future use so that the national slogan of ‘some, for all, forever’ can be realized.
One of the key themes evident in the National Water Policy of South Africa and echoed in the National Water Act (1998) and Water Services Act (1997) is participatory water management. The introduction of a participatory orientation heralds a significant departure from previous water management approaches. What is being witnessed is a slow shift away from technicist approaches to more social orientations to water management.
A prerequisite for participatory water management is that local residents are aware of water related issues and have adequate conceptual capital and skills in order to participate. This grpup of projects therefore aims to focus on awareness raising, improving understanding, increasing conceptual capital and supporting the development of skills and competences associated with integrated water management processes.
The intended level of participation is very high. The National Water Policy hints at an ideal state where all residents of a catchment are in a position to negotiate water allocations and resolve resource based conflicts in an equitable way. Unfortunately, the legacy of apartheid has generated such vast inequalities that this ideal is severely hampered. Any attempts to incorporate previously marginalized communities into the stakeholder group so that they can provide input into the catchment management process cannot be realized without consideration for empowerment through awareness raising, knowledge and skills-based support.
It is clear that an integrated orientation to catchment management requires the cooperation and participation of the various stakeholders, decision makers and as well as residents of the catchment in the various levels of water resource management. Certainly not all aspects of the water management process requires that ALL stakeholders are actively involved but it is imperative that they understand the underlying concepts and have adequate conceptual capital in order engage with the relevant discussions and debates affecting their daily lives. On occasion they are required to play an important role in decision taking and planning.
Improved lines of communication, shared concepts and understanding and vastly improved systems of involving stakeholders in participatory water resource management process are the biggest challenges facing integrated catchment initiatives and the functions of institutions such as the Catchment Management Agencies (CMA’s).
This group of projects is aimed at identifying the key roles and responsibilities associated with civil societies involvement in Catchment Management Forums/Committees and creating opportunities for articulating needs and concerns to the CMA. A key contribution is with assisting Previously Disadvantaged Individuals (PDI’s) to become involved in water resources management through participation in Catchment Management Forums.