Concern over Plan to Shed 10 of 19 Water Management Agencies

Article excerpt

BYLINE: CRAIG McKUNE

THE government's struggle to effectively manage the country's water supply and quality has again been flagged with concerns over its plan to water down a comprehensive management strategy.

Nineteen catchment management agencies (CMAs), intended to better protect, use, develop, conserve, manage and control water resources, could be reduced to nine, according to the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry.

In the Western Cape, where there are currently four water management areas (WMAs), the Olifants-Doring area would then fall under the same management as the Berg WMA, and the Breede-Overberg area would combine with the Gouritz.

This would result in unwieldy management areas and less community involvement, with water quality and access problems being perpetuated, said Patrick Dowling of the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa's Western Cape branch.

Jo Barnes of Stellenbosch University's Department of Community Health, who works closely with water quality issues, said the four WMAs had "totally different" needs and demands and each required "management of an entirely different nature".

"Bearing in mind ... the very specific features of the actual 19 catchments and the needs, interests and concerns of the people who live in them, it would seem less than ideal to 'dilute' the scope for real participatory management," said Dowling. …