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UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education, Delft (2018)

Access to and ownership of water in Anglophone Africa and a case study in South Africa

Bosch, Hilmer J.

Titre : Access to and ownership of water in Anglophone Africa and a case study in South Africa

Auteur : Bosch, Hilmer J.

Université de soutenance : UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education, Delft

Grade : Master of Science (MS) 2018

A key element of the global water crisis is the organisation of water ownership. This dissertation aims to assess the current state of water ownership, and its implications for governance. Hence, my research question is ; ‘What is the state of de jure, and de facto ownership of water in Anglophone Africa ?’ Understanding ownership is critical to developing a legitimate, equitable, and effective governance system. To answer this question, I have undertaken (1) a literature review on the current state of knowledge on water ownership, (2) a content analysis of the laws of 19 Anglophone African countries, and (3) a three months case study in South Africa, building on a literature review, content analysis, and 25 semi-structured interviews with key players in the field. Unpacking ownership reveals that there is de jure and de facto ownership ; ownership can be unpackaged into : access and withdrawal, management, exclusion, and alienation. Four elements qualify for de facto ownership : (a) the possibility to appeal/object, (b) the permit’s duration period, (c) to what extent the permit is subject to variation, and (d) the ability to claim compensation. The literature review reveals that property rights relationships are dynamic. Therefore, it is important to move beyond the limited perception of statutory ownership, and, instead, to recognise its social context. The content analysis of laws reveals that, even though the law does not explicitly provide for water ownership, implicitly it may provide for de facto ownership. The case study revealed that even though the National Water Act (1998) does not allow ownership of water, holders of an historical water use entitlement, and water use licence, de facto actually own water. Water use licences are issued for a period up to forty years, where the holder enjoys legal protection with the possibility to claim compensation when the license is revoked causing economic damage. The issuing of new licences is limited since catchments are moving towards a ‘closed’ system, with limited room for new players. A distorted impression is given when the water laws state that the ownership is in the public domain. After all, you cannot manage the water you do not own. In sum, limited ownership limits a country in its mandate to manage the water in the public interest.

Sujets  : ownership water use governance Africa

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