Transboundary water resource management of the Pongolo River/Rio Maputo.
In the Twenty-first Century, sustainable water management is likely to be humanity's greatest challenge in a world of ever-increasing demand. Legal instruments both international and national regulate and provide a general framework for the use and management of international waters. Future basin management agreements can be informed by examining the degree of success, in terms of sustainability and equity, achieved by such agreements. That success can be influenced by the degree to which such agreements support the human right to water implicitly stated in international customary law, through a collaborative management approach. Since 1988, attempts by communities on the Pongolo floodplain to be involved in Pongolopoort Dam releases, have met with little success. Recently, the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry has begun to support those efforts, but the approach remains a sectoral one, and is primarily concerned with water issues. The South African National Water Act 36 of 1998 provides for environmental management and public participation, as well as providing explicitly for the rights of individual water users, but its implementation is hampered by an overwhelming emphasis on technical considerations and a lack of political will to embrace collaborative management systems. Little effort is expended on collaborative management methods, though the level of transparency in water management is improving, despite remaining highly centralised. The level and extent of incentives for local community participation is low, and systematic monitoring is in its early development. International river basin agreements generally take a top-down or state-driven approach, though there are some examples where local cross-border communities have participated successfully in the implementation of international agreements and management of transboundary basins. South Africa, Swaziland and M09ambique signed the Interim Incomaputo Agreement, which includes the Maputo basin, in August 2002. Once again, the approach to this agreement has been highly sectoral in that negotiations were handled entirely by water officials in the relevant countries. A lack of transparency has prevailed in the negotiation stages, though through the basin studies, which will inform implementation plans, the level of participation should improve. There is overwhelming consensus that integrated management is the key to sustainable international river basin management. Formal and systematic methods for inter-departmental communication, both nationally and internationally are currently not being implemented, which has significant negative impacts on integrated management. Research in this area represents an opportunity to explore collaborative management of an international river basin in an area that is, as yet, unstressed in terms of population and water supply.