Human-river relationships in the Kat River catchment and the implications for integrated water resource management (IWRM) : an exploraratory study

Birkholz, S. A. (2009) Human-river relationships in the Kat River catchment and the implications for integrated water resource management (IWRM) : an exploraratory study. Masters thesis, Rhodes University.




Through out this study ‘relational scenarios’ were seen as the possible outcomes of the expression of human-river relationships in a catchment. Working within Inglis’s (2008, pg. 10) comment that ‘the Human World Relationship is expressed through a person’s views and behaviour towards the natural world, which can be either constructive or destructive’, two relational scenarios were selected to represent these two predicted outcomes of human-environment (or in the case of this thesis humanriver) relationships: IWRM, seen as constructive and mutually beneficial to both the social and ecological system, and the Tragedy of the Commons, seen as destructive and parasitic in nature. In respect to this assertion, a conceptual framework or model was developed and used to guide the inductive process of this research. Through a social survey (administered via semi-structured interviews) of stakeholders (water-users) in the Kat River Catchment, Eastern Cape, South Africa, social attitudes towards the Kat River were explored. These attitudes were considered as variables that relate to the expression of ‘Human World Relationships’ namely ‘values and behaviour’ (Inglis, 2008, pg. 10). The findings of this thesis confirm that attitudes are influential components of human-river relationships in the Kat River Catchment. It was observed from the findings that the attitudes individuals have towards the Kat River have the potential to influence the ways people interact with the River and its associated resources, and are in turn influenced by the condition of the River and connections people have or make with the River within their daily lives. Such relationships in turn affect the management of the River and its water resources and influence how individuals approach water-related issues and undertake the associated activities. Given this understanding it was then proposed that attitudes could provide information that enables the prediction of likely ‘relational scenarios’ (IWRM or the Tragedy of the Commons) in a catchment. The findings appear to support this proposal, and three main attitude groups (utilitarian, associative and dissociative) were identified and used to further the discussion into how this knowledge could be used in predicting possible relational scenarios based on human-river relationships. Further exploration of the identified attitude groups suggested that these variables are significantly influenced by environmental ethics and place attachment (present in the community) and a series of guiding frameworks were developed to facilitate the exploration of the attitude groups relative to these concepts. The frameworks were generated from the hypothesis that knowledge of attitude groups in a catchment, in connection with the relative degrees to which moral values and worldviews are expressed, could provide insight into the readiness of a catchment system for the implementation of IWRM and/or the facilitative steps needed to shift the influence of unfavourable attitude groups (i.e. dissociative attitudes). Such steps would most likely involve extensive educational, awareness and capacity building programs. Finally, given the above theoretical frameworks, inductively developed from the findings of the social survey and related literature, the conceptual model was reevaluated and extended to include the thesis findings and hypotheses. It is suggested that in a catchment where there is a balance between the expression of utilitarian and associative attitude groups, then there is a high probability of finding present evidence of mutually beneficial human-river relationships already in play, as well as ‘fertile soil’ for the promotion of IWRM and philosophies and skills that generate such relationships. Alternatively in an area with a strong expression of dissociative attitudes, it is more likely to find evidence of destructive, more parasitic-like relationships being expressed, and a lack of commitment and interest in being involved in changing the status quo. It is likely that where both associative and dissociative attitudes are present there will be an overlap of elements of both scenarios – a situation that is probable in most catchments – depending on the strength of expression of either attitude group the balance will shift (be shifting) between the two relational scenarios.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Uncontrolled Keywords:Integrated Water Resource Management; IWRM; socio-ecological case study; Kat River; river ecology; human-river relationships; attitudes; Kat River; South Africa
Subjects:G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > G Geography (General)
Divisions:Faculty > Faculty of Science > Geography
Supervisors:Rowntree, K. (Prof.)
ID Code:1581
Deposited By: Nicolene Mvinjelwa
Deposited On:08 Feb 2010 13:51
Last Modified:06 Jan 2012 16:20
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