636.4 The South African new water act and its “ecological reserve”: A case of international influence over a transitional regime?

Saturday, August 4, 2012: 9:45 AM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Oral Presentation
Magalie BOURBLANC , Environments and societies, CIRAD/CEEPA, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
In the aftermath of Apartheid era, the new democratic South African regime prioritized the adoption of reform Acts on land and water issues in particular. Indeed, water access especially has demonstrated the most striking inequalities among the South African racially-divided society (Schreiner and van Koppen, 2002). However the National Water Act voted in 1998 is renowned not only for its declared objective of fighting against injustices inherited from the past. It is also perceived as one of the most ambitious Act in the world from an environmental perspective (Biggs, Breen et al., 2008). Indeed, thanks to the introduction of a “Reserve” in the Act, both basic human needs and an ecological reserve”” are meant to be catered for. In addition, the human reserve and the ecological one are both considered to be constitutional rights, which also make it rather unique in the world. Such a progressive Act especially from an ecological viewpoint can be surprising for a country facing a tremendous social challenge, i.e. providing basic water service delivery in extensive third-world like areas of the country. This paper focuses on the actors and networks which have been instrumental in the adoption of the concept of an “ecological reserve”. It examines whether or not this provision is the result of potential links with international/transnational coalitions or interest groups. The paper then studies the implementation phase and more precisely how the way the ecological reserve is being determined has evolved over time from considering the reserve with purely ecological criteria to seeing it through more societal and sustainable lenses. The extent to which there has been an outside influence on this shift is also investigated.