Public participation as governance the role of catchment forums in water governance Mluleki Matiwane
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Catchment forums are concerned groups of people that come together on a voluntary basis in a specific area. They share the same goal and purpose to achieve - sustainable water resources management. These Catchment Forums are suppose to give a voice for those who are marginalised, by creating a safe space in smaller gathering of familiar people on water issues.Higher level organisations such as Department of Water Affairs and Forestry and Catchment Management Agencies have a responsibility to look after these forums. The main focus of this research is to develop an in-depth understanding of these catchment forums, elaborate on the role they play in water resources management, what impact or influence they have on governance in the catchment and the difficulties that they experience through the process of acting as custodian of water resources. Another crucial part of this research is to describe public participation approached by Department of Water Affairs and Forestry in the process of writing the proposal to establish a catchment management agency, determine the role of catchment forums in the establishment of catchment management agency in the Olifant-Doorn Water Management Area and the necessity of these forums as an organisational type in the establishment of catchment management agency. Minutes from the meetings of the Reference Group in the Olifants-Doorn Water Management were therefore the primary source of data. Additional data sources were approved proposals and field notes. Consultants who facilitated the public participation process were consulted from time to time to verify information.The National Water Policy hints at an ideal state where all residents of a catchment are in a position to negotiate water allocation and resolve resource-based conflicts in an equitable manner. One of the key themes evident in the Nation Water Policy of South Africa and echoed in the National Water Act and Water Service Act is participatory water management. For the public participation process in the Olifants-Doorn Water Management Area, catchment forums almost seemed unnecessary, since there were 38 other stakeholder groups active. This study has shown that catchment forums in the Olifants-Doorn Water Management Area participated at the level of collaborate. When it is taken into consideration that the higher level includes all the lower levels, catchment forums had sufficient opportunity to influence the decision taken in the process of writing the proposal to establish the Olifants-Doorn Catchment Management Agency, without experiencing the need or having the clout to actually make the decision.Key words: Catchment Forums, Catchment Management Agencies, decision-making,governance, iwrm, public participation.