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 case studies

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Work Packages /_Case Studies /_Spain

This case study analysed the process of elaboration of the Special Plan for the Upper Guadiana basin as a planning instrument aiming at managing water resources in the basin, providing water to the population and economic uses and preventing deterioration of valuable wetlands, helping achieve good ecological status of surface and groundwater.

The traditional conflict between the development of agriculture and the protection of the wetlands in the Upper Guadiana basin is a case of special interest from a technical, economic and social perspectives due to three main reasons: (1) the large area it covers (16000 Km2 aprox.), (2) the large population affected (3) the importance of funding from the national and European level that have been invested in the area since the beginning of the nineties to mitigate the problem (Cruces de Abia et al., 1998).

This case illustrated at least four key aspects related to participation, social learning and decision making in water planning:

  1. It illustrated planning processes carried out according to the dominant paradigm of technical determinism and administrative decision making, that requires instruments for imposing decisions made from above. The traditional process of decision-making and plan preparation is limited in the issues that are dealt with, decisions are often arbitrary, and lack transparency. Participation processes are framed in the context of legally required formal information and consultation processes (formal allegations) and bilateral lobbying.

  2. It illustrated the types of reactions that traditional participatory processes generate. Some stakeholders of the Upper Guadiana basin opposed openly their frustrations with the Plan proposals as they considered the formal process of elaboration of the Plan did offer them the possibility to express different views. The process did not involve clearly and actively the interested parties. This meant that actors did not feel reflected or understood the proposals in the plan. Outcomes were challenged because of their contents and because of the process of elaboration itself.

  3. This case was also illustrative of how, in this context, social learning may develop mainly as an ‘extraofficial’ process that helps to deal with the main trade offs in the resolution of the issues and help move towards open and democratic participatory processes, with greater ownership by local actors, in plan preparation and water resources management.

  4. The case illustrated changes in the external context such as political changes may be key in PP, and social learning in water management if they build in the social capital created by informal participation process.

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