The Miera and Campiazo Basins participatory planning process engaged the public and stakeholders in developing measures for managing the Miera and Campiazo river basins in Cantabria, Spain. The process, held from 2008-2011, was organized by the Cantabrian Environmental Agency.
Problems and Purpose
The problems to be addressed by the process included “diffuse pollution” from agriculture, “point source and diffuse pollution from urban development and industry,” and “river connectivity” (Kochskämper, Schütze, & Ballester, 2018, p. 72), and the resulting needs to develop practical measures to address those issues. 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 Spanish law in the 2000s (Kochskämper et al., 2018). In the Spanish autonomous community of Cantabria, the aims of the process were to maximize the participation of the public “and all potential stakeholders” in problem identification and policy development regarding the river basins.
Background History and Context
As the European Water Framework Directive was being integrated into Spanish national law in 2003 and 2004, Spanish autonomous communities revised their policies to implement provisions of the directive. In Cantabria, one consequence was the introduction of various methods of stakeholder participation, including the Miera and Campiazo Basins participatory planning process beginning in 2008. The process ended in 2011 with the coming to power of a new government in Cantabria.
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
The process was organized by Cantabrian Environmental Agency’s Office for Hydrologic Participation in Cantabria.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
The process involved three types of participatory design: “sectoral meetings,” “water forums,” and “multi-stakeholder forums” (Kochskämper et al., 2018, p. 73). In the sectoral meetings (of which there were four) and multi-stakeholder forums (of which there were three), personnel from stakeholder organizations participated, including government, agriculture, business and industry, civil-society, and environmental organizations. The general public was invited to participate in the water forums (of which there were six). All in all, there were 644 participants in the process. The recruitment methods seem to have included broad, targeted publicity plus acceptance of all stakeholders who showed up for the sectoral and multi-stakeholder events, and wide publicity and acceptance of all comers for the water forums.
Methods and Tools Used
Before each event, participants were given a document, written by the Office for Hydrologic Participation and personnel from the University of Cantabria, describing the main bodies of water and the water-management issues in the region. Further, the principles and goals of the European Water Framework Directive were described for participants at the start of each event.
In the sectoral meetings, the purpose was to reach agreement on the most important water-management issues in the river basins and the measures to address those issues. Each sectoral meeting appears to have been devoted to a particular sector. For example, one sectoral meeting included only participants from civil society, another sectoral meeting included only members from the for-profit sector, etc. Each sectoral meeting was facilitated by personnel from the Office for Hydrologic Participation.
The water forums seem to have been designed both to encourage participants “to reach a common view on problems” and to encourage participants to express as many different “opinions and proposals as possible” (Kochskämper et al., 2018, p. 74). In smaller forums discussion was in plenary sessions whereas in the bigger forums discussion occurred in small groups. Each water forum was facilitated by personnel from the Office for Hydrologic Participation.
In the multi-stakeholder forums, the proposed measures raised during the sectoral meetings and water forums were presented to the participants. Then the multi-stakeholder-forum participants discussed and voted on the proposed measures. The multi-stakeholder forums were facilitated by “an external facilitator” (Kochskämper et al., 2018, p. 74).
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
In the sectoral meetings, little discussion was observed because participants generally agreed on the most important issues and measures for addressing them. Little interaction was also observed during the water forums, because participants tended to express individual opinions rather than engaging in discussion with each other. The multi-stakeholder forums reportedly involved considerable discussion, and decisions on proposed measures were by a simple majority.
Participants generally praised the quality of interaction in terms of equality of speaking opportunities, a fair process, unbiased facilitation, and “open … communication” (Kochskämper et al., 2018, p. 74). Yet one participant criticized the voting method in the multi-stakeholder forums and inequality of knowledge among participants.
After the multi-stakeholder forums, the organizers gathered proposed measures that had won approval in multi-stakeholder forums into a list, and gave them to a group of “experts from the University of Cantabria,” who rated the measures in terms of “feasibility” and chose those they deemed most feasible (Kochskämper et al., 2018, p. 74). This final list of selected proposed measures was then shown to the public and stakeholders at local events during 2011 (Kochskämper et al., 2018, p. 74).
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
There is little evidence that this process influenced policy. The final list of proposed measures generated by the process was included as an appendix to the official river basin management plan, which was “published in … 2013” (Kochskämper et al., 2018, p. 75). Yet that plan did not explain the relationship between the list of proposed measures in the appendix and the official Programme of Measures in the main text of the plan. Further, there appears to have been no implementation of either the official Programme of Measures or the proposed measures generated by the process, because of budget limitations due to the financial crisis and different policy priorities of the new government of Cantabria.
The final list of proposed measures generated by the process addressed the priority issues identified in the sectoral meetings, but the measures were framed at a high level of generality, a level possibly too high for practical implementation. In addition, some participants criticized the list of proposed measures generated by the process as too conventional and as insufficiently innovative.
In terms of social outcomes, participants generally expressed high satisfaction with the process -- for the reasons set out above -- and judged the list of proposed measures generated by the process as high in acceptability and legitimacy. Participants reported increased knowledge as a result of the process, including knowledge of water management issues and of local circumstances described by fellow participants. The Office for Hydrologic Participation reported increases in trust among participants. There were conflicting reports over whether contacts among participants increased as a result of the process. The process does not appear to have generated any new projects.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
Even though this process appears to have had no policy impact, the participatory aspect of the process seemed quite successful, due to factors such as effective facilitation, constructive norms for discussion, and giving participants substantial influence over the outcomes of the process (notwithstanding the state government’s choice to disregard those outcomes).
Kochskämper, E., Schütze, N., & Ballester, A. (2018). Stakeholder and citizen involvement for Water Framework Directive implementation in Spain: Three case studies from Andalusia, Cantabria and Catalonia. In E. Kochskämper, E. Challies, N. W. Jager, & J. Newig (Eds.), Participation for effective environmental governance: Evidence from European Water Framework Directive implementation (pp. 65-89). London: Routledge. https://www.taylorfrancis.com/books/e/9781351758703/chapters/10.4324%2F9781315193649-5
Lead image: Government of Cantabria Ministry of the Environment https://goo.gl/Tn5N49