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Political challenges to implementing IWRM in Southern Africa

Political challenges to implementing IWRM in Southern Africa,10.1016/j.pce.2005.08.033,Physics and Chemistry of The Earth,Larry A. Swatuk

Political challenges to implementing IWRM in Southern Africa   (Citations: 23)
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Southern African states are undertaking comprehensive water sector reforms. While motives for reform are partially local, they are in large part driven by the interests and ideologies of Western states and civil societies. Within the Southern African Development Community (SADC), national (water, sanitation, irrigation) master plans are being written or revised. In several states, new Water Acts are in place and new institutions have been created to improve delivery. The stated goal of these activities is integrated water resources management (IWRM) defined simply as equitable, efficient and sustainable use of the resource. This article summarizes findings of social science-oriented scholarship on water management in the region, in particular that published in three special issues of Physics and Chemistry of the Earth (vol. 27, nos. 11–22; vol. 28, nos. 20–27; vol. 29, nos. 15–18). Evidence shows, among other things, that governments have been reluctant to devolve power to stakeholders; that rural dwellers are suspicious of the motives behind reform; that already empowered actors dominate new institutions touting broad-based participation; that efforts to fully recover costs in urban areas have been met with widespread civil resistance; and that new institutions have undermined existing forms of cooperation and conflict resolution, making matters worse not better. At the same time, these studies show the utility of decision support tools, capacity building exercises and research and knowledge production—all positive outcomes that should not be discounted. The paper argues that difficulties with reform reflect the highly political nature of the undertaking. Specifically, the new water architecture proposes a profound realignment of decision making power in already fragile, underdeveloped states. As a result, what may have started as a project now constitutes a context wherein differently empowered actors negotiate and renegotiate roles and rights to resources. Thus, to achieve sustainable, equitable and efficient water use in the Southern African region, it is important to reflect on the political nature of these activities and to reconsider (and be prepared to revise or discard) the basic assumptions and ideologies driving the reform process.
Journal: Physics and Chemistry of The Earth - PHYS CHEM EARTH , vol. 30, no. 11, pp. 872-880, 2005
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