Investigating non-regulatory barriers and incentives to stakeholder participation in reducing water pollution in Pietermaritzburg's Baynespruit.
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The Baynespruit, a stream running through the city of Pietermaritzburg in KwaZulu-Natal, is blighted by chronic, severe solid and liquid waste pollution in the form of sewage, industrial effluent and household garbage. It drains a large residential area, then flows through the city's main industrial area before reaching a low-income neighbourhood whose residents are unable to use the water for recreation and small-scale agricultural irrigation due to its polluted state. Both the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF) and the local Msunduzi Municipality have been largely unsuccessful in their attempts to use regulatory means to address the situation over the past two decades. Bodies such as the Msunduzi Catchment Management Forum (MCMF) have little representation from industry and have been equally unable to initiate effective action. One possible way to work toward reducing pollution problems is to involve all stakeholders in a co-operative participatory process; a key element is therefore the use of incentives and the removal of barriers to participation. The aim of this research was to analyse past initiatives that have tried to address pollution in the Baynespruit, gain an understanding of stakeholders’ views of the problems and their relative importance, and identify economic, situational, developmental and socio-cultural barriers and incentives to participation in a multi-stakeholder process. To accomplish this, the research methodology included a number of different qualitative techniques as part of a case study approach. The main research tool used was a semi-structured interview conducted with individual stakeholders from government agencies and parastatals, industry, local residents and members of NGOs; the use of historical print media coverage and both participant and direct observation complemented the interview data. Though the details of past initiatives were difficult to trace due to the loss of institutional memory at both the agency and NGO level, they appear to have suffered from a lack of communication, accountability and inclusiveness among key stakeholders. Most of the stakeholders interviewed have an understanding of the various pollution problems affecting the Baynespruit and the consequent threat to human health, and there was general agreement that a mix of education, monitoring and enforcement was necessary to solve these problems. There was also broad support for a multi-stakeholder process, with all subjects stressing the need for action, not just discussion, as well as real engagement on the part of their fellow stakeholders. For local residents, building a network of contacts and partnerships could address many of the economic, developmental and socio-cultural barriers they face, and strengthen their effectiveness in fostering participation among other stakeholders. While barriers to industry participation in pollution reduction included problems such as a lack of consequences for polluting, and the feeling that it was ‘not their problem’, powerful economic and situational incentives, such as pressure from corporate customers and the public, remain largely unexploited. A lack of resources in the form of time, staff and equipment, as well as unsuccessful past experiences which have created a reluctance to prosecute or release information, were the major impediments preventing staff at regulatory agencies and parastatals from motivating other stakeholders to participate, though they were aware of the potential for increase effectiveness offered by participatory processes. It is hoped that by recommending ways to maximise incentives and reduce barriers, this research will assist the recently-established Baynespruit Conservancy, which is involving all interested parties in an effort to address the serious pollution problems in the stream.