The Hase Area Co-operation was a process of stakeholder participation to develop proposals for managing the Hase River sub-basin in Lower Saxony, Germany. The process, begun in 2005, was designed by the Lower Saxony Ministry of Environment, Energy, and Climate Protection.
Problems and Purpose
The problems to be addressed by the process included pressures placed on the Hase River and its environment by factors including “diffuse pollution” and “point source pollution” from “intensive livestock farming” (Schütze & Kochskämper, 2018, p. 45), and the resulting needs to develop policies and practical measures to address those pressures. Another cause of the process was the introduction of the European Water Framework Directive, which required some degree of public participation in water resource management, and the integration of the directive into German law in the 2000s (Schütze & Kochskämper, 2018). In the German state of Lower Saxony, the process was used to enable stakeholder engagement on the development of a Programme of Measures (Schütze & Kochskämper, 2018, p. 46) to address those environmental pressures. The formal purposes of the process included “facilitat[ing] dialogue and information exchange and … contribut[ing] substantively to the [Programme of Measures] through the development of innovative and locally suitable measures” (Schütze & Kochskämper, 2018, p. 46).
After the European Water Framework Directive had been integrated into German federal law in 2002, German states revised their water laws to implement provisions of the directive. In Lower Saxony, one consequence was the introduction, in 2005, of 28 area co-operations, including the Hase Area Co-operation.
Originating Entities and Funding
The Lower Saxony Environment Ministry designed the co-operation process, and the Lower Saxony Water Management Agency organized the process (Schütze & Kochskämper, 2018, p. 45).
Participant Recruitment and Selection
Participants were stakeholders in the Hase River sub-basin, not the general public, and the included stakeholders were chosen by the Lower Saxony Environment Ministry, but additional stakeholders seem to have requested admission and some seemed to have participated. Ten to 15 participants were included in each meeting of the co-operation. Participants included representatives from local governments, water boards, agriculture, forestry, business, and an angling group that also represented environmental organizations.
Methods and Tools Used
The method used in the co-operation varied. From 2005 through 2007 or 2008, the method consisted of a day-long meeting held four or five times annually. From 2008 or 2009 and afterwards, the method changed to a four-hour meeting held twice annually.
Deliberation, Decisions, and Public Interaction
Co-operation meetings were chaired by a representative from a water board. Interaction in the co-operation meetings varied. During the first several meetings, there was a lot of constructive discussion among the participants and high levels of participation. Yet this changed in later meetings, when it became clear that each participant who proposed a measure would have to pay ten percent of the cost of implementing the measure. This angered the stakeholders, and discouraged them from proposing measures. At this point in the process, participation in discussions during the meetings declined, stakeholders proposed few measures, and the mode of interaction in meetings changed from active dialogue to having the participants listen to presentations of information.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
The process seemed to have little impact on policy. The process generated a list of about 300 proposed measures, but the information provided by the state government did not allow verification that any of the measures from the Hase co-operation process had been adopted. Some of the adopted measures addressed key issues raised by Hase co-operation process, but the number of adopted measures concerning the major issue of point source pollution seemed fewer than adequate. Few to none of the measures had been implemented as of the date of Schütze and Kochskämper's (2018) assessment. It's possible that more measures will be implemented in the next decade, but funding issues and the risk to stakeholders of incurring substantial costs due to European Union policies raised doubts about the implementation of many measures. Water quality does not appear to have increased as a result of the co-operation process.
In terms of social outcomes, participant satisfaction was low, because participants were angry at having to pay for proposed measures, and participants said they had little influence over the final Programme of Measures. The chair said that some information was too complicated for participants to understand. On the positive side, participants reported increased knowledge of the issues and greater understanding of one another's knowledge shared in meetings. In addition, participants increased their social ties with each other, and with participants in other area co-operation processes. There were also organizational developments: the water boards started a new organization to seek grants to pay for implementing measures, and environmental organizations in Lower Saxony created a new organization to advocate for the implementation of the European Water Framework Directive and Habitats Directive in the state.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
After a promising beginning, stakeholder participation in the co-operation process seemed to be thwarted by financial issues. Stakeholders were discouraged from participating in the co-operation process by state policies that imposed on stakeholders who proposed measures financial obligations beyond stakeholders' willingness or capacity to pay, and because of a risk, stemming from EU policies, that stakeholders could incur even greater financial obligations if their proposals contained errors. The designers and organizers of the co-operation process could have avoided these problems by doing at least four things before the start of the co-operation process: (1) involving stakeholders in the planning of the co-operation process, (2) gauging stakeholders' capacity and willingness to pay for implementation of measures, (3) working with the EU to insulate stakeholders from financial liability for the cost of measures, and (4) exploring alternative means of financing implementation of measures, such as the grant-writing process that the water boards eventually turned to.
Schütze, N., & Kochskämper, E. (2018). Stakeholder involvement for Water Framework Directive implementation in Germany: Three case studies from Bavaria, Lower Saxony and Schleswig-Holstein. In E. Kochskämper, E. Challies, N. W. Jager, & J. Newig (Eds.), Participation for effective environmental governance: Evidence from Europeann Water Framework Directive implementation (pp. 39-63). London: Routledge.