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Shifts in environmental policy making discourses : the management of the St. Lucia estuary mouth.

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Global shifts in environmental decision-making from technocratic, top-down models to democratic, open-ended forums to address environmental issues have highlighted the complexity of environmental issues. As a result, the definition of these environmental problems in the political arena is highly contested and thus the process of formalising environmental discourses through environmental policy-making has become very important. Hajer’s (1995; 2003) argumentative discourse analysis approach is used as a methodology to examine environmental policy-making regarding the St Lucia estuary mouth, in KwaZulu-Natal. This is also used to structure the presentation of the analysis particularly according to the terms of the policy discourses, such as the broad societal discourses, the local discourses and and the storylines. The environmental discourses are characterised using Dryzek’s (1997: 8) taxonomy of environmental discourses, based on his broad definition of discourse as “a shared way of apprehending the world”. This research aims to identify the environmental discourses that emerged in the 1940 to 2005 period regarding the management of the St Lucia estuary mouth and the shifts in discourses that have taken place during this time. An analysis of the shifts in environmental discourses in the Greater St Lucia Wetland Park over a 65 year period revealed two significant events that punctuated the management discourses of the protected area and effectively divided the analysis into three succinct periods. These two events were the Kriel Commission of Enquiry in 1966 and Cyclone Demoina in 1984. The promethean, ecological modernisation and survivalist discourses were dominant throughout the three periods analysed. The evidence also shows that there has been a shift from modernist engineering discourse to a more ecosystem discourse which advocates that ‘let nature take its own way’. Science remains a dominant force in shaping environmental policy-making in St Lucia; however environmental problems have become discursive in the post-apartheid period in a democratic South Africa and thus require a discourse that has wider stakeholder representation.


Thesis (M.Sc.)-University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, 2009.


Estuaries--KwaZulu-Natal--Management., Environmental policy--KwaZulu-Natal., Theses--Environmental science.