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People and the River



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Urban vs Rural South Africa  

While South Africa is a middle income country (see Distribution of Economic Activity), making progress in addressing the inequalities of the previous regime, it continues to experience serious economic challenges. Throughout South Africa, parts of society enjoy socio-economic conditions equivalent to the wealthy in the developed world, while others experience extreme deprivation and exclusion, leading to poverty comparable with that of the least-developed countries. Poverty is more profound in the rural areas. Almost 50 % of the non-white population lives below the national poverty line (StatsSA 2007). Many households still have unsatisfactory access to clean water, energy, health and education. South Africa’s high crime rate is to some extent, influenced by these circumstances.

Urban and Rural Distribution in the Four WMAs

There are four water management areas found in the Limpopo River basin in South Africa: Limpopo WMA, Luvuvhu and Letaba WMA, Olifants WMA and Crocodile (West) and Marico WMA (LBPTC 2010). With the exception of the Crocodile (West) and Marico WMA, the majority of the population is rural and the distribution of wealth is very uneven.  

“Similar to the national demographics trends, and mainly attributable to the impacts of HIV/AIDS and of increasing urbanisation, little if any increase in population in the rural areas is expected beyond the year 2025 (DWAF 2003a).”

About 3,5 % of South Africa’s population lives in the Limpopo WMA and 80 % live in informal rural settlements or villages. The population is mostly concentrated in the south-eastern half of the basin with the urban population concentrated around the Polokwane, the only major urban centre in the WMA (DWAF 2003a).

Similar to the Limpopo WMA, about 3,5 % of the nation’s population lives in the Luvuvhu and Letaba WMA. There is a predominantly rural characteristic with more than 90 % of the population living in the rural areas. A relatively high population density is evenly distributed throughout the Loweveld region. Lower densities are found in the mountainous and escarpment areas with even lower densities in the Kruger National Park. Urban centres, which area comparatively small, include Tzaneen, Thohoyandou and Giyani (DWAF 2003b).

About 7 % of the national population resides in the Olifants WMA and approximately 67 % of the population is rural. The majority of the total population (60 %) lives in informal villages in the Middle Olifants sub-area. In the Upper-Olifants 80 % of the population resides in the urban environment including the major urban centres of Witbank and Middelburg (DWAF 2003d).

The Crocodile (West) and Marico WMA is the second most populous WMA in the country. The majority of the population (85 %) is concentrated around the urban centres of Pretoria and Johannesburg. In other areas of the basin population density ranges from sparse to moderate. Population is linked to economic opportunities and projections indicate the population will therefore continue to grown around the major urban centres and in the Elands sub-areas where there are mining developments (DWAF 2003c).

Despite large scale investment in rural water supply schemes, access to clean water remains a challenge for many rural communities in South Africa.
Source: CSIR 2003
( click to enlarge )

Key Indicators

The Human Development Index (HDI) for South Africa is 0,683, ranking it 129th out of 182 countries with data (UNDP HDR 2009). The Gini coefficient for South Africa in the 2007/2008 Human Development Report was 57,8.

Water Management Areas found in the South African portion of the Limpopo River basin.
Source: Hatfield 2010
( click to enlarge )



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