Participation – lost in translation? : a study of active public involvement in the implementation of the Water Framework Directive in Sweden

University essay from SLU/Dept. of Urban and Rural Development

Abstract: In 2000 the Water Framework Directive (WFD) entered into force in the European Union. The Directive aims at improving water quality and achieving a good water status for the next generations. This paper aims at studying the implementation of the EU WFD in Sweden in relation to public participation within water management. There is no clear definition in the text of the WFD of how this public participation should be achieved, which allows for many different interpretations of how participatory processes should be carried out. Empirical data of two case studies from different parts of Sweden, Kiladalen (in Södermanland) and Gotland, was used to analyze constraints and opportunities for deliberative democratic processes to emerge. The analysis was based on theories of ecological modernization and public participation. The study indicates that deliberative democratic processes depend on willingness and knowledge of authority representatives who have the power to decide over public involvement. Since the legally binding requirements for participation in the WFD are very low, institutions with no interest and/or knowledge in including the public in decision making can choose not to use higher level of participation than required. On the other hand freedom to interpret active involvement of the people allows the creation of deliberative democratic process from the very beginning, defining the problem and creating a common view of the future, in order to deal with environmental threats.

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