Rivers as borders, dividing or uniting? : the effect of topography and implications for catchment management in South Africa

Smedley, David Alan (2012) Rivers as borders, dividing or uniting? : the effect of topography and implications for catchment management in South Africa. Masters thesis, Rhodes University.

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South Africa's water resources are unequally distributed over space and time to a high degree and our already stressed water resources situation will only be exacerbated by climate change if current predictions are correct. The potential for conflict over increasingly strained water resources in South Africa is thus very real. In order to deal with these complex problems national legislation is demanding that water resource management be decentralized to the local level where active participation can take place in an integrated manner in accordance with the principles of IWRM. However, administrative and political boundaries rarely match those of catchments as, throughout South Africa, rivers have been employed extensively to delineate administrative and political boundaries at a number of spatial scales. The aim of this research is to determine if rivers act as dividing or uniting features in a socio-political landscape and whether topography will influence their role in this context. By considering sections of the Orange-Senqu River, some of which are employed as political or administrative boundaries, this project furthermore aims to consider the implications of this for catchment management in South Africa. South Africa's proposed form of decentralized water management will have to contend with the effects of different topographies on the way in which rivers are perceived and utilized. The ability of a river to act as a dividing or uniting feature is dependent on a number of interrelated factors, the effects of which are either reduced or enhanced by the topography surrounding the river. Factors such as the state of the resource, levels of utilization, local histories and the employment of the river as a political or administrative border are all factors that determine the extent to which a river unites or divides the communities along its banks, and are all influenced by topography. The implications of this for the management of catchments in South Africa are significant. Local water management institutions will have to contend with a mismatch in borders and in many cases bridge social divides that are deeply entrenched along the banks of rivers. Importantly, the need for a context specific approach to catchment management is highlighted.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Uncontrolled Keywords:Rivers, South Africa, Water-supply management, Orange River Watershed, Boundaries
Subjects:G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > G Geography (General)
Divisions:Faculty > Faculty of Science > Geography
Supervisors:Rowntree, Kate and Jacobs, Inga
ID Code:3260
Deposited By: Ms Chantel Clack
Deposited On:04 Sep 2012 06:17
Last Modified:04 Sep 2012 06:17
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