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 case studies

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Work Packages /_Case Studies /_France

The Dordogne river flows through south-west France, from the Massif central mountains to the Atlantic Ocean via the Gironde estuary, shared with the Garonne flowing from central Pyrenees. Stretching over 450 km the river is in a rather large watershed by French standards, where above one million people live. In contrast with other large French rivers like the Rhone and the Seine, it is usually considered as rather natural. Yet human occupation is very ancient, and has modified its settings; in the last century, the development of hydroelectricity radically altered its flow regime.

Public participation to water management was specifically developed at the beginning of the 1990s. After 1997, stakeholders are gathered to develop environmental maintenance of some Dordogne tributaries (in particular Cère and Céou). These processes are fostered at national level under the label of "river contracts", which usually deal with smaller areas (between 500 and 2000 km2). They are still ongoing and offer contrasted examples of public participation and social learning.

Two complementary teams did the fieldwork in our case study research. Issues covered dealt with institutional evolution of public participation processes, the aims and roles of various actors, influencing factors. Particular attention has been devoted to information and communication (IC) tools and their contribution to participation processes.

Investigation was developed in 3 steps: preparation (reading the press and documentation of web sites and books on the Dordogne, contacts with the EPIDOR and with researchers involved in other projects in the area); a second phase for field data gathering mainly in April 2004, through interviews, participative observation in meetings, review of local public and private archives; and pursued interaction with stakeholders in the case study writing phase.

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