Legal Perspectives on Ecosystem Services Protection for Water Security in South African Cities
Keywords:ecosystem services, water security, urban areas, environmental law, local government, eThekwini Municipality, sustainability
In the last couple of years, South African cities have exhibited extreme water stresses, despite there being a strong regulatory system for the management of said resources. The pressure to meet human demand for freshwater resources, accompanied by a wide array of other challenges, has largely led to a deterioration of ecosystems. Given the ongoing and widespread loss of ecological services, water protection requires a substantial effort to reverse the current decline in both the state of the ecosystems and the services they provide to society, and the country’s shared sense of governance of these significant resources. Achieving water security and the sustainable management of water resources will, therefore, require overcoming strategic challenges related to protected areas, water infrastructure, economies, human settlements and water quality, sanitation and health, as well as the protection of ecological infrastructure. This article argues that ecosystem services protection can add value to the protection and management of water resources in attaining water security in South Africa, as ecosystem services and water security are inextricably linked. The article further determines how the legal framework in South Africa makes provision for water security and ecosystem services protection, to assess what role local government can and should take on. The authors conclude the discussion with some observations on ecosystem services protection for water security in policies and by-laws of the eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality.
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