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Kristine Wasrud

Personal Details
Organization: Visiting Scholar
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Degree: Bachelor in Human Geography

Job Description
Visiting Scholar

Research Interest

Other information
Masters Thesis Project Proposal:

Kristine Wasrud, Centre for Development and the Environment, UiO.

Participation and Influence in Water Policy and Distribution Decisions in Durban, South Africa:

Rationale and Importance of the Research-Topic:
Water is essential, essential for both humans and the environment. This
renewable, though finite resource, becomes increasingly scarce. In an
era of climatic change where these changes will influence various
patterns and levels of the distribution of water on earth, an increasing
competition over this resource will emerge. As the resource becomes
scarcer, the distribution of water becomes more important and concerning
questions occur. In a world with a heavily screwed distribution of
resources, means and attempts to redress these inequalities have been,
are and will continue to be imperative objectives. This need for
redistribution of resources is inherently linked to the need to elevate
countless numbers of people from appealing poverty. This necessity,
however, need to be achieved without destroying the environment, the
basis for livelihood and life.

Water is closely linked to development and poverty-reduction. This
resource is not only important with regard to drinking, but it has also
important implications for health, dignity, food production and other
productive productions. Hence, in order to be able to reduce poverty and
raise people’s living-standards to a level any human deserve, an
essential question is how to ensure a fair distribution of water among
competing needs and interests? This question imply several challenges
regarding what, where, how, and who. Redistribution of any finite
resource also entails a redistribution of the benefits the resource
provides. As the distribution is today, any redistribution will, as I
perceive it, mean that those with much (the haves) need to give up some
in order for those without (have-nots) to have more. As those with
resources also most often are those in power, this redistribution will
also constitute a change of power-relations, and is, as such, inherently

The concept of fairness and justice also indicate a number of problems
and questions such as, what is fair, how to determine it, on what
criteria, to whom, where and under what circumstances. However, as the
question of what a fair distribution is remains, and will most likely
remain unanswered, any question and change should be asked and done as
one step on the road towards this objective. By failing to make efforts
to reach such targets we violate our positive duty towards other human
beings, and potentially also our negative duty not to cause harm by
being reluctant to change a system known to be harmful for the most
vulnerable groups.

As a step towards creating a fair distribution of water, all wants
need to be considered and compared. This, hence, makes an initial
assumption; in order to achieve a fair distribution, everybody’s needs
and concerns should be heard and considered. This assumption need to be
further clarified as it may be assumed that, though this hearing and
consideration of various interest-groups’ needs and interests, it may
not guarantee a fair and just distribution of a scarce resource.
It may, however, be a way of creating recognition and understanding
among the various groups and form a certain level of legitimacy of the
existing and an agreed upon distribution. Despite the many benefits of
including participation in strategies to form water distribution and
water distribution system, participation also have a number of troubling
elements and challenges. There is a risk that participation only becomes
a cover-up and a way of legitimize existing distribution of both water
and power, without any real intention of initiating changes.

Furthermore, in order for participation to be a strength, the
participation need to create an effective influence on the decisions
made. In addition, participation also involves determining what groups
and interests that should be represented. This question includes a
number of important challenges and questions such as who are the people
and groups that should be included, who are the people and groups
excluded, who determine who should be represented and why do they have
this privilege, what influence does this decision and structure have on
the final outcome, and how to include the excluded and overlooked

An important element linked to the notion of a fair distribution and
participation is empowerment. This is further linked to the ideas of
development as freedoms and capabilities. All of these notions are
inherently linked to people’s ability to make decisions and influence
their own lives. As empowerment is such an important element, an
important relationship to clarify is whether empowerment is developed
through participation, or participation is established and initiated due
to empowerment. With regard to the previous paragraphs a set of
important questions emerge; how does participation in water decisions
influence empowerment and how does participation influence empowerment
in water decisions?

Water and resource distribution may be perceived as only a means to
an end; the improvement of the well-being and life-situation of a great
number of people. Through empowerment and participation, people can
become the agents initiating the necessary changes, changes to improve
their own opportunities and future. Furthermore, water, participation
and empowerment are closely linked as they all make important
cont-ributions towards dignity and capabilities. By enhancing people’s
dignity, empowerment and capabilities their abilities to claim rights
and entitlements are subsequently strengthened. This results in a larger
ability to enforce their right to water, creating a greater opportunity
to participate and enhanced empowerment, all in all initiating a
‘positive development circle’. Through this empowerment and increasing
agency, people are also able to voice their concern and interests when
in competition with other interest groups, further, through this
articulation of interests and needs the distribution may become more
just, or at least more legitimate, as interests and concerns are taken
into consideration, given that the participation and influence is
effective and real.

Theoretical Approach:
An important discourse and approach in the current development-discourse
is the Human Rights-Based Approach to Development (HRBAD). This approach is increasingly becoming mainstreamed in the United Nation (UN) institutions and programmes. The HRBAD entails emphasizing a set of principles, which becomes integrated into development efforts. Human rights have been linked to development from the emergence of the human rights-notion, but the human rights based approach to development has
not merged in full force until later. This approach emphasizes a holistic approach to development and to humans, and entails that
development and human rights efforts need to be advanced on several important fields simultaneously as the various human rights are
interrelated and interdependent. This approach has a poverty and development understanding related to the concepts of freedom and capabilities. Furthermore, some of the important principles highlighted in this approach are participation and empowerment (Andreassen, 2006).

This approach will be further clarified in the second chapter, but based
on the emphasis on participation and empowerment and the human rights’
close link to capabilities and freedoms, this approach appears to be a
suitable theoretical framework for the masters thesis on participation
and rights to water.

Case-study and research topic: Durban, South Africa
The Universal Declaration on Human Rights states that states has the
obligation to respect, protect and fulfill human rights. This
declaration was followed by two inter-national covenants; the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the
International Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)
(Hardberger, 2005, 337). South Africa did, when the new constitution in
1996 was created, put great emphasis on human rights. The country’s
constitution holds that the human rights should be respected, protected
and fulfilled. The constitution further provides for rights to some
basic socio-economic human rights, such as the right to access food and
water, medical care and housing (South African Constitution, 1996, ss.
7, 27, 26).

After the end of the apartheid era, the country was left with great
inequalities among different people and social groups. This is also the
case with regard to water and water distribution. These inequalities are
reflected in the South African cities (Winkler, 2007 ,4), such as for
instance Durban, which is one of the biggest cities in South Africa with
a population of approximately three million people (Marx & Charlton,
2002, 3).

Despite the city-governments many efforts to decrease the gap
between the most affluent and those with less, great inequalities still
exists, ranging from slums and informal settlements to western standards
of comfort. It is estimated that 33 percent of the metropolitan
population lives in informal settlement. In these informal settlements
there are a heavy bias towards Africans, it is estimated that
approximately half of the African metropolitan population lives in
informal settlements, reflecting about 920 000 people. The African
population constitutes 63 percent of the whole city’s population, while
the Asian and the white population is 22 percent and 11 percent, in
addition to colored who make up 3 percent (Marx & Charlton, 2002, 3).
The level of informal settlements may reflect the broader poverty
challenges the city is faced with. When using a broader definition of
poverty it is estimated that 690 000 people, or close to 23 percent need
to be alleviated from extreme poverty, while some 510 000 people, or
nearly 17 percent need improved living-conditions (Marx & Charlton,
2002, 8). The informal settlements have been the subject to serious
backlogs in provision of various public services. With regard to water,
the “official acceptable minimum level of water delivery is defined as
every household having access to 200 liters per day of potable water. The number of households below this minimum is 144 600 or 20,4 per cent”
(Marx & Charlton, 2002, 13).

Historically, the KwaZulu-Natal area has been affluent with regard to
water. Durban has a rainfall of between 800 and 1140 mm a year, creating
an average of 1013 mm, while the average evaporation is 1295 mm annually
(Bell & Maude, 2000, 927). The Durban area, which covers both rural and
urban areas, is crisscrossed by 33 rivers and streams (Ethekwini
Municipality State of Rivers Report, 2007, iv-v). Out of these 33 rivers
and streams, 14 of them also cross the Durban Metropolitan Area (Durban

With regard to ground water, the KwaZulu-Natal has only had a limited
development of groundwater withdrawal (2002), due to the regions ability
to cover demands by use of other water sources. However, the importance
of groundwater is increasing because of the increasing demand from rural
areas and the population growth in Durban (Bell & Maud, 2000, 925).
There are, though, much uncertainty with regard to groundwater in this
area, regarding the amount withdrawn, who is using the water, how much
and where (DWAF, 2008, 30). Durban is expected to be faced with water
shortages in the near future, since the increasing population and
growing economic activity, put the water resources in this region under
pressure. (Bell & Maud, 2000, 925).

Furthermore, Durban is considered to be the place of origin of the Free
Basic Water policy, a policy which later has become national. This
policy constitute that all households are granted 6000 liters per month
free of charge, while any excessive consumption will be charged at a
rising rate (Loftus, 2009, 961). Through this policy the city government
has received international recognition. The policy is, however, faced
with critiques based on a number of elements. First of all the
definition of a household is set to be 8 persons, hence a big household
will have the same amount of water available as a small, since every
household receives the same amount of water regardless of number of
inhabitants (Bond & Naidoo, 2008). With regard to this it should be
pointed out that poorer households tend to be bigger. In addition it may
be asked questions whether or not 6000 liters per month is enough, for
whom and under what circumstances (Bond & Dugard, 2008). Following
closely to the previous questions is questions regarding the
affordability and thus the accessibility of water for demands over the
provided amount of water (Loftus, 2009, 962).

Hence, not getting the water promised or not having access to water is
only one part of the current water problem in Durban. This problem is
further linked to the high numbers of disconnections due to non-payment
(Loftus, 2009, 962). While the policy was lunched to ensure people a
basic level of water, it also entailed an attempt to reduce luxury
consumption and induce conservation. The effective results are, however,
questionable as the groups making the biggest modifications on water
consumption have been groups more in need of the resource and service.
The initial cross-subsidization has also been harmful for the low-income
households exceeding the granted provision, while the prices have been
to low to effective change the luxury consumption of the wealthy. Hence,
for many people, the basic minimum of water has in reality become the
maximum of accessible and affordable water (Loftus, 2007, 48-49).

With regard to participation in water-topics, the participation-type
used in Durban is based on a conflict based model. This model entails
that the groups most likely to cause protests and troubles are invited
to participate. This means that the participation is based on principles
for conflict mitigation instead of constructive input options and access
to decision-making processes. It also means that the less vocal groups
are excluded from the dialogue (Wilson et al., 2008, 141).

Hence, here is the nexus of my thesis: how does participation
influence water distribution, how does participation in water decisions
influence empowerment and how does participation influence empowerment
in water decisions? Furthermore, how is participation and empowerment
linked to the human right to water, what are the challenges with regard
to participation and the right to water and how does participation
contribute to, and push the government’s responsibility to respect,
protect and fulfill the right to water? And, finally, how are all these
issues reflected, practiced and influencing the water-landscape of Durban?

Methodological approach:
My masters-thesis will be conducted according to qualitative methods.
The main research method will be literature review and analysis as there
already exists a great quantity of information on water and the right to
water in South Africa. By doing this I will also be able to identify the
discrepancies and differences in views regarding the challenges water
access and distribution is faced with.

I also expect it to be beneficial to look at the law(s) and analyze both
what the intentions and the implications are. The law(s) may also have
been operationalized in various policies and programmes (FBW &
cost-recovery). I need to identify what the objectives, implications and
results of these initiatives are. Related to the analysis of the law,
some discourse analysis may also be contributory as various writings may
reflect the power relations present regarding water. Both the law and
the discourse analysis will help me identify the power relations and who
is in- and excluded in the decision-making regarding water. In addition,
law analysis will give me a point of direction regarding the
implications the law may have on various social groups and interests.
The discourse analysis, on the other hand, will give me directions both
in terms of what are the most pressing issues and views on the water

A final method I will be take advantage of is fieldwork in Durban
(October-November). This will be contributory to the literature study. I intend to get in contact with various civil organizations/non-governmental organizations dealing with water and poverty issues. These organizations have a general knowledge regarding the water context in Durban, as well as more in depth information about specific geographical areas, fields of interests and challenges. These organizations may also be my point of departure in terms of finding others to interview. These organizations represent poor and vulnerable people, who often have difficulties in accessing formal channels of influence. Thus, on a theoretical level they may provide information with regard to who the poor and most vulnerable are, and how is the context, situation and challenges perceived form their point of view.

These organizations may also have important roles with regard to
empowerment and participation. These organizations main objectives may
be to influence and empower the marginalized groups in various
policy-decisions and basic rights questions, including water. I hope to
get the opportunity to spend some time with these organizations as this
will give me a better understanding of what they do and how they
operate, as well as help me to identify what questions are of relevance
and important to ask during semi-structured, open-ended interviews.
I also intend to get in touch with government officials who may provide
a different insight in how the law functions on a lower, more practical
level, as well as how the governing institutions includes groups and
people in policy decisions, simultaneously as who is excluded/not
mentioned. These sources may also provide information regarding progress
and improvements along with further plans and prospects. Furthermore,
these two groups (government and NGOs) may have somewhat opposing
perspectives on the situations and the challenges at hand. By
interviewing representatives from both groups, these oppositions may be
identified and evaluated. It may also give an indication on both
challenges and possibilities for cooperation. Depending on the situation
and who I am able to talk to, the interviews of governmental
representatives are most likely to be of a rather structured type.
I also hope to get some interviews or talks with some academics (at the
University of KwaZulu-Natal), these may have both a more independent
stand and great knowledge of the field. Due to practical reasons such as
access to library and information, getting contact with the University
may be beneficiary, as well as for help and guidance.

Limitations and restrictions:
With regard to water, I will only look at water used for basic needs;
drinking, food preparation and basic hygiene. Though water is essential
and very important for a number of other human activities and
ecosystems, will the focus remain on water as a basic necessity, thus,
water needs and demands for agriculture, ecosystems, industrial
production and energy will not be the main focus. This is justified by
the role water, water access and water-security plays in development
through basic health and life. It is also based on the necessity to find
a way of ensuring water for all and fulfilling the moral obligation the
affluent population in the world has to the much larger proportion of
less affluent people. This issue is also relevant considering the need
to sustain the finite water resource. A distribution formed in an
informed way, where various needs and interests are considered for than
to make a list of priority among them, the interests and needs of the
environment should also be included.

In terms of the case study and the participation in Durban, this may be
narrowed down by concentrating on one policy, for instance the FBW
policy, and the influence of a specific group, from a specific area has
on the design, implementation and enforcement of this policy.

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