Problems and Purpose
The Water Protection Plan (PTA) finds its regulatory reference in the Framework Directive on Water (Dir. 2000/60 / EC), implemented by Legislative Decree 152/2006. Its objective is the integrated protection of inland, coastal and underground surface waters. It is an instrument of an intermediate, regional scale, and is subject to the hydrographic district management plan, which in this case, for the Aosta Valley, is the Po management plan.
These plans were therefore drawn up and approved starting from the mid-2000s and must undergo a periodic review and update process; the Po basin management plan as well as the Po flood risk management plan were revised from 2012 to 2015. They prepare the framework and indicators for the design of the regional level, therefore for the first water management plan della Valle d'Aosta (PTA), approved in 2006, the revision process was started in October 2015, with DGR 1436 of 9/10/15.
Background History and Context
Valle d'Aosta is an autonomous region with a special statute. It is the smallest in Italy, both in terms of population (126,687) and surface area (3,263 sq km) and the alpine populations that inhabit it have different linguistic and cultural traditions.
The political forces that govern it are regionalist-inspired groups or parties whose names themselves - (eg Union Valdôtaine and Union Valdôtaine Progressiste) - are in French, but national political forces are also present.
The modalities of the planning procedures are not determined so much by the local policy as by the introduction of the Strategic Environmental Assessment in the planning procedures with the regional law 12/2009 .
Up to now there have been no particular experiences of organized public discussion paths in the Aosta Valley. In the same government program the concept of participation does not appear . However, the main parties, Union Valdôtaine and Union Valdôtaine Progressiste, come from a history of resistance to fascism and state centralism and refer to the principles of the Chivasso Declaration, a partisan document written on December 19, 1943, inspired by federalism, regionalism and local democracy . It therefore remains to be investigated what kind of rooting in the Alpine populations these parties / movements have today and how any public participation, probably more informal and not inter (net) mediated, is managed.
Efficient water management is a theme present in the government program but only in the technical document does it state that "the regional administration, aware of the importance of participatory planning for the concerted management of a common good as vital as water , launched in April 2016, in parallel with the data processing and integration of these, the process of public participation "(Region, 2017, p. 4).
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
The planning process was promoted and supported by the Regional Council, in particular it is managed by the Planning, Soil and Water Resources Department, headed by the Department of Public Works, Soil Defense and Residential and Public Construction; its coordinator is Eng. Raffaele Rocco and the coordinator of the public participation process is a regional official, Dr. Eliana Arletti. No information is available on the costs of the participation process.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
No specific method of selecting participants was adopted. The process started with the opening of specific web pages (link 1) and a “first public consultation forum” (8/4/16), one Friday morning in Aosta, in a room of the Regional Palace.
The publicity of the meeting and subsequent events, from what emerges from the press reviews on the web pages, was limited to online news publications such as Aostanews24.it, Aostaoggi.it, Regioni.it . From the information available online, you can view posters relating to the meetings but there is no explicit dissemination plan, nor other means of communication (posters, radio and television announcements).
At the various meetings reserved for actors (environmental associations, land improvement consortia, representatives of electricity producers, regional departments and administrative structures, mayors of municipalities) the presence was complete and broader, while at the open meetings to the general public there is a low turnout; it is assumed that the calls were targeted and directed through regional mailing lists.
The meetings were almost always attended by various technical officials from ARPA Valle d'Aosta. The coordinators of the programming department, Rocco and Arletti, are always present as conductors at all meetings. Elective regional political offices are never present. The regional media produced a television report (regional TG3) and published interviews and press releases (online newspapers).
Methods and Tools Used
Forum has become a generic term to define, as in this case, public meetings with scheduled presentations (which cover most of the time dedicated to the event) with some unscheduled interventions by the public present, in the short time remaining before of the conclusion.
Bilateral meetings are meant as meetings with actors, stakeholders, grouped by single category (environmental associations, land consortia, energy producers, regional administrative structures, municipalities), i.e. bilateralism consists in the dialogue between the organizing structure of the process (the Department planning, soil defense and water resources of the Region) and the representatives of the various acronyms that can be traced back to the categories identified.
The participated technical tables are multi-actor meetings in which technical measures are defined and documents are verified with the most competent and involved parties. The participants in this case range from 15 to 40 people. For the most part the attendance is of technical officials of the Region or of the ARPA.
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
According to the organizers, the process was divided into three tools: information, consultation and participation (link 1 - Participation). In practice, it is a very long process, started with the "Public participation forum" on 8/4/16 which will end in June 2018, according to the calendar available online (link 1 - Calendar).
In the first forum (37 participants) the path and the various issues that would be addressed in the plan were presented (sharing the information framework, the mapping of water bodies, pressures and impacts); finally, the web pages dedicated to the course were presented. The two long interventions of the ARPA technicians provided a first cognitive picture on the state of the water bodies, on the monitoring network, on the analyzes and on the available information sources. Video footage of the meeting and a press review are available on the website.
In the following months up to July 2016, 9 “bilateral meetings” were held with the groupings of single categories of actors, again on weekdays in the late afternoon, in the meeting room of the Regional Planning Department.
4 meetings were held with 5 environmental associations (Legambiente, Valle Virtuosa, CAI VdA, Movimento per la degrescita felice, ATTAC); 1 meeting with the representatives of the land improvement consortia (Fédération des Coopératives Valdôtaines); 2 meetings with electricity producers (Confindustria VdA, Alga / Euriver, Coop. Forza e Luce of Aosta, CVA SpA, Deval SpA, Eaux Valdôtaines, Flli Ronc srl); 1 meeting with the regional administrative structures (7 subjects including regional departments, structures and agencies); 1 meeting with the mayors of the region (there is no specified number of mayors and although the Department of Public Works is reported, it is not indicated who represented him at the meeting). Overall, 80 people took part in these meetings. The topics addressed were many, each group focused on the aspects most relevant to their interests (eg purification, withdrawals for irrigation, aqueduct efficiency, hydroelectric exploitation and environmental redevelopment for the first group; the Minimum Vital Flow in irrigation use, co-use of derived water - irrigation and hydroelectricity - and the recovery of costs for the services provided to users by the consortium for the second actor; release of plant concessions, Minimum Vital Outflow for hydroelectricity, incentives, mitigation measures for the third party group; coordination in the involvement of the structures for the fourth; public and private use of derived waters, thermal, mineral and drinking water use and artificial snow for the municipalities. The environmental group and the business group have also drawn up their own joint document, which can be downloaded from the dedicated pages (link 1 - Bilateral meetings).
The actors who participated in the previous phase were invited to the comparison in "thematic meetings", for two consecutive days, weekdays, June 29-30, 2016. 67 participants discussed in three subsequent sessions, open to the public (but the public was very scarce), on: use of water for industrial, agricultural and civil purposes, river requalification, environment and water economy. The site contains video footage of the meetings, that is a succession of frontal interventions in a conference room. "The aim of the meetings was to identify distances and points of convergence between the different needs, reduce the former and consolidate the latter, to develop a planning that is as shared as possible and expression of the multiple needs of the territory" (Link 1 - Incontri thematic).
Following this first phase of meetings, "the opportunity emerged to organize an information meeting to illustrate the evaluation methods applied to the applications for authorization to the derivations, to exhibit the fish suitability card and the Mesohabsim method, as well as to inform about the methods of environmental risk assessment of derivations "(Link 1 - Information meeting). In this meeting 3 experts (Reseau Network, Aquatic ecosystems research unit - Fishing consortium - ARPA) presented approaches, techniques and measurement criteria.
Another meeting was dedicated to the comparison with land improvement consortia which was held at the headquarters of the Fédération des Coopératives Valdôtaines soc. coop. in Saint-Christophe. After three hours of scheduled speeches, the discussion was scheduled at 12:00. The link to the Regional TG3 service is also online in which the issues related to irrigation use, the awareness-raising action against waste and any new measures on monitoring (meters at the major withdrawal points) emerge while ensuring that the irrigation use will remain free.
This first phase of 2016 meetings closes with a "Synthesis meeting and proposals for updating the PTA", held on 14 December 2016. The meeting was aimed at the actors who had participated in the process up to that moment, and were present with 15 participants. It is about sharing the cognitive-informative framework, and the proposals that have emerged up to that point. All the extensive documentation has been included in the dedicated pages, together with the presentation of the SPARE project by Arpa, which has among its objectives that of experimenting participatory management processes of the river resource following a methodology adapted to local conditions (Link 1 - Synthesis meeting ).
From this meeting the path made with the Council Resolution no. 1836/2016, which approves the cognitive framework on the main criticalities, the synthesis of the pressures and the quality status of the water bodies, including the criticalities and the proposals identified by the actors. In addition to the site, this information was disseminated via newsletters.
The second phase opens with a meeting (26/1/17, 45 participants) aimed at defining the thematic, number and calendar of meetings of the "technical tables", "corresponding to the main pressures generated by human activities on the state of regional water bodies: discharges of purified urban wastewater, withdrawals for hydroelectric use, withdrawals for irrigation use, morphological alterations, groundwater - geothermal and drinking water withdrawals "(link 1 - Organizational meeting of the technical tables). In addition, a second forum is held (3/2/17, 40 part.) To inform the participants on the results obtained in the participatory activities of 2016 and on the planning of 2017, as well as another information meeting (11/4/18, 18 part.) on the PEAR, regional environmental energy plan and on the state of concessions for the exploitation of electricity (link 1 - Meetings).
Thus began the phase of the “Participated technical tables”, 11 meetings from 14/2 to 28/9/17 (100 part.), To define the main measures of the PTA.
On the site there is all the material (minutes, presentations, position documents of the actors) in which up to 40 representatives, but generally about twenty, discussed the issues, together with the technicians (almost all the regional ones were mobilized, covered over 30% of organized subjects). Brief debates are developed but above all exchanges of cognitive resources, knowledge, skills, operating methods, the state of the art of rights is clarified, such as the "ancient rights" of use of water for irrigation purposes. The abundance of water in those slopes of the lower valley allows for widespread irrigation to increase the production of summer fodder, and the drawing has always been free. Rules are drawn up for the use of the common good, applying the indicator of the DMV (Minimum Vital Outflow) but it is necessary to establish where to put the outflow meters and therefore their control and maintenance (a cost for the community) therefore establish the priorities relating to where to put them therefore requires a census of the intake points and infrastructures that is not complete or with incorrect data. Therefore, a revision of the database would be needed and the collaboration of the Consortia is requested. Furthermore, it is proposed to distinguish the case in which the drawdowns are for irrigation or even hydroelectric purposes. Irrigation alone could benefit from less expensive flow measurement methodologies. The researcher of the SPARE project intervenes who argues that equipping the site does not cost much but then it is necessary to verify where to apply the method and the regional administration points out that the period and the sites must be agreed with her. An even shorter debate opens up among the approximately 100 presidents of the consortia, in which respect for their right to use water as they have always done is emphasized, indeed they ask to extend the withdrawal period. Again we return to the question that it is a question of distinguishing and understanding whether there is also hydro-electric use. The topic is postponed asking for the establishment of a further working group .
An information meeting will also be held on this theme (30/5/17, 30 part.) Dedicated to the "regulatory update on the assessment of water derivations and the definition of ecological flow" (link 1 - Meetings); later a subsequent meeting with the Consortia (17/11/17, 101 part.) at the headquarters of the Fédération des Coopératives Valdôtaines, "to take stock of the state of the art of the revision of the PTA, of the interactions with the PSR and activities connected with updating the database (101 participants) "(Ib.).
The path to date (27/1/18) is not yet concluded, other discussion meetings should continue until April, after which the condensation of what has been developed and tested in the field begins, in the editorial definition of the new PTA, a phase of a month (May) in which technicians and programming officials will report on the document. It is not known how this phase will take place in the method. Probably tighter technical meetings. After that it will be adopted by the Executive and presented in a final public participation Forum. Finally, it will be sent to the Po Basin Authority (body that oversees the function) for the expression of its opinion and to the Regional Council for its approval and its transmission on the dedicated Portal (link 1 - Calendar). It should also be noted that the participatory phase was essential to provide the opinions and observations for the purposes of the SEA (Strategic Environmental Assessment, launched in January 2018) and therefore its integration into the PTA process (Link 1 - SEA Process Calendar ).
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
The process is not yet concluded, but already from the first phase clear links with the actual decisions taken by the Executive have emerged (see above, DG 1836/2016). From the online materials it emerges that the officials, placed to coordinate the process, played a mediating role between the social and technical partners, without excluding - as often happens in Italy - the environmental world. A mediation that has produced a hierarchy in the agenda of water management policies, a comparison between interests and an order of priorities and limitations on uses. The control tools themselves are a cost and a discussion opens on how the contribution provided by the public administration is established and the contribution paid by private individuals, companies or consortia, however, with the spirit of maximum collaboration in order to achieve concrete results. with lower costs and more benefits for everyone (even if only of social desirability and harmony between the actors). The Forums would be the moment of public legitimation of this process of mediation between actors, however it is not yet clear to what extent each actor is fully satisfied and if there are no more polarized instances that would have needed greater democratic legitimacy through methods of involvement. more representative. In this regard, the surveys carried out with an online questionnaire from the dedicated pages have not been used - until now - in the sense of broadening the representativeness on some fundamental issues but of verifying the completeness and correctness of the information in the cognitive framework and the needs for in-depth analysis on topics not programmed. However, this had a positive effect because a heartfelt public debate was opened on the issue of managing irrigation use with a strong involvement of the presidents of the consortia, worried that an "ancient right" would be called into question. However, the mediation was managed by the coordinator ing. Rocco, without resorting to tools to enlarge the representativeness, nor with the presence in the discussion of the elected offices of the public administration. It is interesting to note that between the rules of irrigation use between different uses and the resolution of potential conflicts on the single watercourse in the PTA it is planned to open consultation tables relating to the parties involved in the single water body. Ditto in the applications for the concession for hydroelectric exploitation, calls for tenders are foreseen, a selection based on transparent rules and scores and then a phase of local public participation opens that precedes the EIA and the possible single authorization.
At the moment, therefore, it seems that the process generates mutual learning and therefore the mediation of opinions and positions between stakeholders of different interests produces tangible effects on the measures.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
It is a long and regional-scale process (although the Aosta Valley is a region of modest territorial dimensions, those of a large Italian province), demanding, in which all the actors have participated continuously. The community spirit of the Alpine populations and the correct attitude of the officials have undoubtedly fostered an open discussion that seems to be part of the habits of the mountain people, without investing in media and advertising communication and without investing too much in the involvement of general citizenship, allowing also the time necessary for the metabolization of concepts, problems and the exchange of points of view. Leaving the possibility of access to all only in the forums and information meetings reveals an understanding of social dynamics and an authentic and concrete focus on the issue under discussion.
The provision to include in the PTA, procedures that will activate public participation in the lower scales, at the level of a single water body, in the event of conflict between users and in the case of new hydroelectric plants, indicates that the administration, although it does not make rhetorical democratic proclamations and does not attend the events of the process with greetings and pleasantries, has understood that participatory practices are a reliable tool for building policies and broadening consensus.
Stakeholder Group Process
 PTA 2016, Public participation process> http://pta.invallee.net/partecipazione (ril. 27/1/18).
 Government Program> http://www.regione.vda.it/pressevda/giunta/programma_i.aspx (ril. 27/1/18).
 Province of Turin, Chivasso Charter, Materials for a reflection> http://www.provincia.torino.gov.it/cultura/minoranze/dwd/chivasso_materiali.pdf (ril. 27/1/18).
 First Public Participation Forum> Press review> http://pta.invallee.net/incontri/primo-forum/rassegna-stampa (ril. 27/1/18).
 Participatory technical tables - meeting minutes, pp. 3-4> https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B7vT_NbZSIVTLVJVY3VPRDFXNHM/view (release 29/1/18).
Valle d'Aosta Autonomous Region (2017), Summary report of the activities carried out at 20 July 2017> http://pta.invallee.net/contributi (ril.27 / 1/18).
1. PTA 2016 - Valle d'Aosta water protection plan> http://pta.invallee.net/home