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Title: Overcoming water scarcity for good? : querying the adoption of desalination technology in the Knysna Local Municipality of South Africa
Author: Scheba, Suraya
ISNI:       0000 0004 5353 2289
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2015
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In this thesis I aim to query the Ecological Modernisation vision of green growth by focusing on the emblematic case of desalination technology as the solution to the threat of water scarcity. I focus the study on a drought crisis, which resulted in the adoption of desalination in the Eden District Municipality (EDM) of South Africa. Focusing on the towns of Sedgefield and Knysna, in the Knysna Local Municipality (KLM) of the EDM, I ask the questions of ‘what, how, by whom, why and to what end was desalination adopted?’. This interrogation is characterised by two movements, firstly tracing the process and mechanism through which this consensus was manufactured; and secondly countering this by examining the underlying metabolic relations constituting crisis and solution. The research was carried out over a period of 11 months, from October 2011 to August 2012, during which I undertook 91 semi-structured interviews, extensive document analysis and participant observation. The theoretical strands drawn upon are a blending of post political theory, to inform an analysis of the techno-managerial orientation of consensus manufacture; and a Marxian relational ontology, to examine what is produced and foreclosed by the logic. This project is undertaken in five parts. Firstly, I show that the dominant representation of 'drought crisis' insisted upon the indisputability of drought as a threat posed by an externalised nature. Next, in examining the metabolism of drought I counter this narrative by showing the drought crisis to be a socio-natural assemblage, rather than an externalised threatening nature. This is a vital finding, showing that the support for the adoption of desalination technology as a necessary response to 'nature's crisis', pivoted on the maintenance of an ideological fiction, obscuring the relational 'becoming' of drought. In the third chapter, moving on to an examination of the solution, it emerges that an essential aspect of the solidification of consensus was the employment of exceptional disaster and environmental legislation which had the effect of neutralising drought as 'nature's crisis' and desalinationas the indisputable solution. Enabling the urgent release of disaster funding to ensure water security for economic growth. This chapter also argues that the maintenance of the dominant crisis narrative produced an opportunity for the desalination industry, by treating 'nature' as a direct accumulation strategy. In the remaining two empirical chapters I evaluate the 'promise' of the desalination techno-fix. Through focusing on the conditionality placed on disaster funding and how this impacted on project assembly, resulting in problems and costs emerging out of the desalination solution from the outset. Fundamentally, it is argued that, rather than being external to, these problems are intrinsically connected to the mechanisms and logic through which consensus emerged in the first place. To clarify, through the preceding chapters it was shown that the basis for the 'disaster funding' release was an insistence on 'nature's crisis', as an ideological fiction. These remaining chapters show that this had the effect of placing limitations on what was spent on, when, and how much. Thereby informing project assembly, with these constraints resulting in problems emerging out of the solution. In sum, the thesis concludes that the adopted E.M. logic was a false promise that served to intensify the penetration of nature by capital, resulting in a deeper movement into crisis by moving the problems around as opposed to resolving them.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: National Research Foundation ; Foundation for Urban and Regional Studies
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Desalination Technology ; Ecological Modernisation ; Post politics ; Relational ontology