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14th Riversymposium, keynote presentation from Toine Smits (2011)
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14th Riversymposium, keynote presentation from Toine Smits (2011)


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"Evolution of W-European River Basin Management", Toine Smits, Dept. Sustainable Management of Resources, Radboud University, Nijmegen, The Netherlands …

"Evolution of W-European River Basin Management", Toine Smits, Dept. Sustainable Management of Resources, Radboud University, Nijmegen, The Netherlands

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  • L&G water management is in our genes. A Dutch university that does not address water related issues is not considered as a true university. So also my research group contributes to the water management challenges we all have to cope with. In this presentation I hope to make clear how universities through action-research can contribute to the realization of sustainable river basin management.   My fellow countryman, mr Ingwer de Boer already gave a comprehensive overview of what has happened and what is going on in the Netherlands related to floods and flood protection. I would like to complement his presentation on the Room for River project by putting it in a historical and European perspective and focus on a new mode of cooperation between stakeholders that share a river basin.
  • My schedule; Firstly, I will spend some words on the historical context of what we refer to as “ traditional water management ” and the transition process towards sustainable river basin management. Subsequently, I will focus on how we can support or even speed up this transition process and illustrate this with a so-called “ co-creation ” experiment which we have started some years ago. This co-creation experiment with public-private stakeholders named “ Wealthy Waal ” pretty much addresses the challenges that mr de Boer formulated at the end of his speech: Linking short term gains with long term objectives Engagement of local actors/stakeholders Identify win-win situations And last but not least I will guarantee you that I will finalize my presentation with some conclusions within 30 min.
  • mr de Boer already mentioned the soil subsidence of large parts of the Netherlands. Large scale draining of the peatland was the main cause of this subsidence. In the 1600 ’ s a number of Dutch families we were so good in draining that they were invited to do it also elsewhere. In Britain for instance, Cornelius Vermuyden was the engineering brain behind the drainage of The Fens in the 1650s. The Fens is a large wetland area in East England between Cambridge and Peterborough. And similar to The Netherlands case also this draining adventure in Britain eventually resulted in an increase of flood prone areas and more floods.   So now you might think; “ don ’ t let yourself in with the Dutch b ’ cause the sooner or later they ’ ll flood you ” . Well that is not completely true. To our relief similar processes also occurred elsewhere where the Dutch were not involved; such as New Orleans (USA) and what recently is happening in Jakarta (Indonesia). Philosophers question themselves why engineers get themselves into problems by changing natural dynamics instead of adapting to them. We have to go way back to the time of the great thinkers in Europe to understand this behaviour.
  • One of the greatest thinkers of the early 1600 was Rene Decartes. Descartes well known by his statement : Je pense, donc je suis; “ I think therefore I am ” ,; was convinced that nature had only one purpose and that was to serve man. The reasoning of Decartes greatly influenced the scientific revolution during and beyond his life. But knowing that we can understand why so many engineers try to solve complex problems primarily by changing the environment instead of looking at technological innovations to adapt. In our domain of water management we refer to this attitude as “ Traditional water management ” .
  • Apart from the large scale drainage projects in The Netherlands, Britain and other places we can also find some interesting results of traditional water management along the upper-Rhine in Germany. This is a historical map of the upper Rhine near Karlsruhe around the year 1770. On the map you can see the meanders of this morphological active river section indicated by the dashed loops which are former river bends. The inserted picture on the right top of the slide is a painting which can be admired in the museum of Basel (Switzerland) and gives an idea how the fluvial landscape looked like in those days. It was a very divers landscape, rich in biodiversity and harbored a huge salmon population.   However, at that time the hygienic conditions were poor and the local people suffered from various water related diseases. A German engineer named Johan Gotfried Tulla stood up and had an idea to solve this problem. And what we might expect after this introduction he was looking for a solution through modifying nature. In this case; regulate the entire upperRhine. With his crew he excavated ditches between the meandering bends during the low water discharge period and waited for the moment that the river would rise. Tulla knew that the river would take the short cut and would scour out the excavated ditches until the river settled in his new course; a straight line down the slope. Click Part of what he predicted happened. The Rhine dug itself into the sediments and ceased to meander. The stagnant water bodies in the vicinity of the river bed which was seen as the cause of the water related diseases, disappeared. After this intervention Tulla was worshipped as a hero. And even now you still can find songs and statues around Karlsruhe devoted to him and that celebrate this act. But after few years some unexpected side effects emerged. Because the Rhine was now straightened the erosion of the river bed increased enormously. Tulla had disturbed the natural equilibrium and now the Rhine had to establish a new equilibrium. For years the river bed subsided; 4, 8, up to 12 meters before it stabilized. You don ’ t have to be a hydrologist to predict the consequences. While the river bed was subsiding it took the entire aquifer (groundwater level) with it causing severe drought problems. In the far surroundings the damage to forest and agriculture was enormous.
  • This overview of historical maps makes clear what happened. On these maps the river section between Breisach and Weil are depicted and clearly illustrate the disappearance of the riparian forest. But apart from this ecological deterioration also the water retention capacity of the landscape disappeared. You can imagine that during periods of heavy precipitation the water rushes down into the river and because the Rhine had been straightened the cities located downstream had to cope now with an increased flood frequency.
  • We have piles of examples of traditional engineering in Europe we would like to share with you and with a similar outcome. However, for time reasons I have to stop here and summarize the lessons learned with pictures: You start with a pristine situation, you modify it in extreme way and the sooner or later you end up here. Click It looks quite obvious but it took us quite a while in Europe to fully understand this simple mechanism and before we started to fundamentally change our strategy.
  • That turning point in W-European river basin management took place after the flood events in the nineties where the representatives of the Rhine riparian states convened in Arles, (France) in 1995. For the first time in history there was a general agreement that this traditional engineering strategy should be fundamentally changed. Since the seventies the Rhine riparian states already had an agreement to end the unbridled pollution in the Rhine river basin. But from now on we should also protect and restore the ecological and hydrological resilience of the Rhine river basin. Extensive plans were made to restore the retention capacity upstream, and increase the water discharge capacity downstreams. Actually, the “ Integrated Rhine Program ” in Germany and the Dutch “ Room for River Program ” are forthcoming from this Arles meeting.
  • So like the Dutch also the Germans are creating more room for the river. But in Germany these areas mainly function as retention areas and not to increase the water discharge capacity as most of the Room for the river projects in The Netherlands. This slide gives an overview of the places where these measures are being conducted. Most of these projects are already realized and when possible combined with nature restoration, leisure and agriculture.
  • Thus apparently in Europe we are in the midst of a transition process towards sustainable river basin management. Let us try to zoom in on a more detailed level and look how we can improve or speed up this transition process. As an example I will focus on one of the biggest Room for the River measures; the Nijmegen dike relocation along the river Waal.   Click At present the dike relocation is under construction and the end result looks appealing. But to be honest the process of getting there was not easy at all.   After the near floods of 1995, the city of Nijmegen was informed in 1996 about this river widening initiative for the first time and they were quite upset. So upset that soon after this announcement the dialogue between the city and the national government mainly occurred through lawyers.   Click Actually, it took about ten years of mutual arguing between the national and local governments before an agreement could be signed. Click Finally, the cost for the government to solve this fluvial bottleneck in the river Waal was approximately 360 million AUD! That is a lot of money and a lot of effort coming mainly from one side; the government!
  • Metaphorically speaking; you could say that we were all in the same boat; the boat is here the transition process towards sustainable flood protection but only one organization is pulling the oars. It is a challenge to see if we can improve that. In particular if we consider the future challenges related to climate change. Click Ideally, the national government should be the coach of a team with a common goal; making the Netherlands safe in a sustainable way and where everyone contributing i.e. pulling the oars of the boat. Inspired by this idea the Radboud University of Nijmegen started some years ago a co-creation experiment along the Waal river. It was named “ Wealthy Waal ” referring to the potential economic, cultural and spiritual values this river represents. I will share with you some experiences.  
  • This slide gives you an overview of the stakeholders and the conflicting claims on land use. The Waal river is the main branch of the Rhine tributaries and its connects Rotterdam harbor to the largest inland port of Europe, Duisburg (Germany). Annually 165.000 ships make use of this shipping corridor which is an equivalent of 150 million ton of goods. Apart from shipping there are conflicting land use claims in the floodplains between agriculture, nature, housing, industry and of course the “ Room for the river ” program. From a academic point of view an excellent arena to explore new ways of cooperation between public and private stakeholders and to get everyone actively involved in combining land use plans and increasing the water discharge capacity.
  • Our research team of the Radboud University took the initiative to start a so-called “ co-creation ” project, a bottom-up project with public and private stakeholders along the Waal river. In the beginning the project comprised 60 km of river and 10 municipalities. Click   City by city we discussed the land use and flood protection challenges and noted that there was hardly any cooperation between these municipalities. And yet, there was a common sense of urgency to do something about flood protection and yes they believed in the Room for River approach. But the NIMBY feeling prevailed and most of them were frustrated because they had no tools nor the knowledge to assess the impact of their land use plans on the water discharge capacity. Thus they were completely dependent on the suggestions and opinions of the river experts of the Ministry. Moreover, available manpower failed to address the regional, national and European guidelines on biodiversity, and environmental issues. To end this negative spiralling we offered the 10 municipalities knowledge and tools for free so that they could develop and evaluate their own plans. In addition, we also offered to help them to tune their plans with the regional, national and European guidelines. However, in return we asked the municipalities to comply to a number of playing rules in this co-creation experiment.
  • Click The first rule was that plan making was done in a transparent way and with a focus on the river system instead of the territorial boundaries of the municipalities. Click The second rule was that plan making was done by what we named “ Communities of ownership ” . A CoO consists out of representatives of local administration, experts, civilians and entrepreneurs. In this way we secured all societal interest groups from the very beginning. Each “ Community of Ownership ” was provided with two facilitators to streamline the discussions and to keep on track. Click The third rule was that the CoO ’ s would operate on the basis of sustainability principles. This automatically implied that we would contribute to the Room for the River goals. Unfortunately, ‘ sustainability ” has become a confusing and vague term. Therefore we used The Natural Step guidelines to simplify it and bring it back to 4 sustainability principles which everyone can understand and apply. Please google on The Natural Step to learn more about it.  
  • Our offer appeared to be appealing for the 10 municipalities involved. The Radboud University received a grant to coordinate this co-creation experiment for two years. During the process more and more partners became enthusiastic about this innovative bottom-up approach. After 1 year another 5 municipalities along the Rhine joined, the Province of Gelderland became a full partner and the regional river manager joined. Apparently we had lift off with this co-creation experiment which was also endorsed by our future king and water manager His Royal highness Prince Willem Alexander, the secretary of state in those days and the four directors general of the ministries involved.
  • This scheme gives you an idea how we organised the Wealthy Waal project. Along characteristic river sections we organised the so-called CoO ’ s consisting out of a number of municipalities and public and private stakeholders. Each CoO was supported by two facilitators guiding the visioning and planmaking process. These facilitators were also the linking pin with an overarching “ development group ” . This “ Development group ” focused on the overarching interests and tuned in with regional, national and European guidelines.
  • As an example of the technical tools we used to enable layman to design their own land use plans on evaluate it on their hydraulic effects we used the so-called map table. This picture is a try out with students but in practice we invited participants of the CoO to draft their land use plans such as housing, buildings, nature restoration projects on a digital map which was GIS based. After the drawning session people where invited for coffee and in the mean time the GIS model was linked with a 3-D hydraulic calculation model (WAQUA). After the coffee break the hydraulic calculations were done and the participants could have a look at the impact of their plans and find out whether they had just flooded their neighbours or not. This tool greatly improved the iterative design process and gave the participants the feeling of “ being the owner ” of the outcome.
  • What did we achieve in these two years. Firstly, we were successful in creating a master plan of 80 km of Rhine-Waal river section from the German border to the regional border of the province of south Holland. This masterplan comprised 48 land use plans of various nature. Some of them are directed on flood proof housing, industrial use, nature restoration and leisure. All of these plans contribute to the generic goal of making more room for the river and what is also important contribute to the costs of realising it. Secondly, the province of Gelderland adopted the Wealthy Waal project from the university and gave it a legal status. Thirdly; the Province of Gelderland recently announced to invest 113 million euro ’ s as a start to support the realisation of these 48 land use plans and announced that more regional investements will be made available for the next years.   All in all, in interesting outcome for what started as an academic experiment. Linking business people, administrators, civilians and experts from the very beginning and giving everyone the opportunity to pull the oars. There is hardly any time to discuss the various bottom-up initiatives, which came forth from these communities of ownership. Therefore as a teaser I show some pictures of floodproof landscapes and innovations that came forth from these CoO ’ s. If you want to learn more about its please come to the Keynote interactive session on Wednesday afternoon.
  • What is needed for a successful co-creation process with stakeholders?   Click CoO’s; Joint visioning and common language with respect to sustainability. Today I had no little time to elaborate this point. But we learned that is crucial that participants of the CoO ’ s speak the same language when it comes to sustainable development and apply the same principles.   Click Flexible time windows for project management If we engage ourselves with stakeholders in an open and transparent co-creation process it is very difficult to define a priori the route-to-go and the outcome. Therefore, project management styles which work with rigid time-windows and budgets are per definition not suitable.   Click Allocate funds beyond political time windows We all recognize this problem. Temporarily funds. Finally, we have an agreement with all stakeholders to carry out a project or a measure including a financial agreement. Suddenly, the political climate changes because of elections and the new administrators undo what the former have promised. Public and private partners accuse the governmental partners to be untrustworthy preluding the end of the co-creation process. At the national level we recently tackled this point. Just a week ago the so-called Delta programme bill passed successfully the Second Chamber in The Netherlands (that is the Dutch House of Commons) and awaits now an agreement of the Senate. This bill enables a fund for water management/flood protection out of reach of elected people with a short term interest. Click Strategic leadership Everybody will agree with me that this is a crucial aspect of success; a charismatic leader that has the respect of all local stakeholders and has an overarching view of the whole river section. You can not create charismatic leaders but you can try to find one and support him or her. Click In our Wealthy Waal project we were lucky with our vice governor who was re-elected and understands the importance and working methodology of this co-creation. Give you participants the opportunity to bring in their own ideas and let them also pull the oars.   L&G tea is waiting. With a few conclusions I will wrap up:  
  • So taking all what has been said today into account; in what direction does the W-European evolution of river basin management develop? Obviously, there is a clear shift in attitude and thinking going on how to deal with nature but also how to deal with flood protection. My research group conducted an extensive survey among the French, German and Netherlands population and concluded that the “ mastery attitude over nature “ as described by Decartes is substituted by a “ steward ship ” attitude. This means that we feel a responsibility for the wellbeing of nature and our rivers. Of the 1180 people we interviewed in France, Germany and The Netherlands there is a strong adherence for the Room for River measures instead of the traditional river management measures.
  • The process of co-creation is a young but promising step in the evolution of river basin management in Europe. It contains a number of novelties and requirements that need further elaboration and attention for the coming years.   Click   Need of a new style of project management In the aftermath of disasters you need focus and there is limited space for accommodating all kinds of societal wishes in order to clean up the mess. But disasters are an exception to the rule. Normally we do not deal with disasters leaving us the opportunity to co-create. And that L&G requires a completely different style of project management. If you want to be successful as a river basin manager on the long term and in sustainable way you have to leave your “ comfort zone ” of being in control of everything and accept uncertainties, open up your mind for innovative ideas and work with local initiatives.   Click   Experts focus more on facilitation of joint design and adaptation measures We still need engineers but their skills will focus on complete different topics and issues than in the past. They will focus more on adaptation of land use such as agriculture, housing and industry instead of modifying nature and fighting natural dynamics.   Click   Involvement of new “value” criteria; apart from monetary also cultural and spiritual values. L& G, The title of this river symposium is; The Value of Rivers ” . For a very long time we were used to “ value our rivers ” from a monetary point of view (risk, damage and profits). Gradually we are entering now a new evolutionary phase of river basin management in which new criteria of “ value ” will be added in terms of cultural and spiritual values. Criteria that play an important role in the co-creation processes with local stakeholders. Within this context I hope to share with you and learn much from you during this symposium. Thank you for your attention and my Aussie friends for their great hospitality!    
  • Because all stakeholders have a shared vision with respect to a sustainable development of this Waal river section they are no longer confused and by the overwhelming information related to flood protection, climate change. They now know what kind of tools are needed to realise the goals they have agreed on. An example of such a tool which has been developed within the “ Wealthy Waal ” project; is the digital MAP-table. All plans related to land use in the floodplains of the river need to be evaluated on their effect on the water discharge capacity by hydraulic models. Recently only experts of the Ministry or big consultants were able to conduct such assessments. In practice this slows down the plan making and decision process considerably. Therefore a tool was developed that could be used by the promotors of a land use plan to assess the impact on the water discharge capacity. This tool is called the digital MAP-table. Nowadays citizens, NGO ’ s and non-experts can assess their own plans prior to asking a final approval of the river manager. In addition, also tools for assessing biodiversity (biosave) and seepage on the landside part of the dike due to excavations in the floodplain are under construction.
  • Samenhangend gebied dat het nu niet is; verbindingen stad en uiterwaarde; stadspark / beleving/ natuur / recreatie; bijzondere woonvormen plus evt economische functies (leisure); compensatie ingreep middels nevengeulen; emab Natuurontwikkeling in uiterwaarde iom DLG/provincie (Natura 2000); hogere dijk die toekomstbestendig is
  • Another successful example is the developing of a so-called of Cyclic Rejuvenation management strategy that will solve future Nature-Safety dilemma ’ s in floodplains. It is important to note this management strategy is generic and thus can be applied everywhere along the river section.
  • Transcript

    • 1. Evolution of W-European River Basin Management Toine SMITS Dept. Sustainable Management of Resources RADBOUD UNIVERSITY NIJMEGEN, THE NETHERLANDS
    • 2. Contents
      • Traditional river basin management (RBM)
      • Transition towards sustainable RBM
      • Optimising transition process; Co-creation experiment “Wealthy Waal”
        • Linking short term gains with long term objectives
        • Engagement of local actors/stakeholders
        • Identify win-win situations
      • Conclusions
    • 3. Drainage of The Fens (Britain) Cornelius Vermuyden
    • 4. Renė Decartes (1596-1650) “ I think, therefore I am” “ Mastery over nature; … nature has only one purpose and that is to serve man…” Solving complex problems by changing nature
    • 5. River regulations Germany Traditional river management in Germany (river regulations)
    • 6. Loss of hydrological resilience and biodiversity Impact of river regulations Rhine (Weil-Breisach section) <1860 >1860 >1965
    • 7. Traditional approach in pictures Hi,’s me… ..perhaps we should reconsider our strategy…
    • 8.  
    • 9. “ Integrated Rhine program”, Germany
    • 10. Nijmegen “embraces” the river…. Costs: 360mill. AUD City center (present) River boulevard City center (future) River boulevard
    • 11. Not taking the lead… But coaching co-creation….
    • 12.
        • Nijmegen
      Waal river Main transport route; -165.000 ships/y -150 mil ton cargo/y Opening Stadswaard
        • Sand excavation
        • “ Flood proof ” housing
        • Nature, recreation & agriculture
    • 13. “ Wealthy Waal ” project
    • 14. Playing rules “Wealthy Waal” project
      • Focus on river system and transparent planning process
      • All partners participate in a Community of Ownership (CoO).
        • CoO comprises representatives of entrepreneurs, administrators, civil servants and experts.
      • Apply the Framework of Strategic Sustainable Development (The Natural Step).
    • 15. Support for “Wealthy Waal” project Partners “ Wealthy Waal ” ; Radboud University, Province of Gelderland, City region Arnhem-Nijmegen, Region Rivierenland, Waterboard Rivierenland, 15 cities along the Waal river, Ministry of Infrastructure & Environment, “ Live with Water ” grant program.
    • 16. Co-creation; the “ Wealthy Waal ” project, investing in the interface “ bottom-up ” and “ top-down ” “ Wealthy Waal ” project Development group Regional administration National European Community facilitators
    • 17. Digital Map-Table for hydraulic assessment
    • 18. Wealthy Waal experiment; Results Co-creation of stakeholders
    • 19. Flood proof landscape (Tiel)
    • 20.  
    • 21. Solving the nature-safety dillemma Nijmegen Highway A50 Hydraulic resistance caused by forest
    • 22. Conditions for a successful co-creation process
      • CoO’s; Joint visioning and common language with respect to sustainability.
      • Flexible time windows for project management.
      • Allocate funds beyond political time windows
      • Strategic leadership
      Vice governor Prov of Gelderland Mr. Co Verdaas
    • 23. Conclusions (1)
      • Attitude towards nature
        • Fundamental shift in environmental ethics; “mastery over nature” towards “stewardship of nature”.
        • Ref: “Exploring the relationship between public environmental ethics and river flood policies in western Europe”. Mirjam de Groot et al.,
        • Journal of Environmental Management 93 (2011)
    • 24. Conclusions (2)
      • Process of co-creation
        • Need of a new style of project management
        • Experts focus more on facilitation of joint design and adaptation measures
        • Involvement of new “value” criteria; apart from monetary also cultural and spiritual values.
    • 25. Thanks for your attention and hospitality !!!
    • 26. C1 ...concentrations of substances extracted from the Earth ’ s crust, C2 ...production of persistent compounds , C3...degradation of the ecosystem, C4...people are not subject to conditions that systematically undermine their capacity to meet their needs. In a sustainable society, policies and economies are geared towards a systematically decrease of... and, in that society... Conditions to open the route towards sustainable development.. 4 sustainability principles
    • 27. A,B,C,D steps Present Future -Is it in the right direction? -Is it a flexible platform? -Is it a good return on investment? A,B,C,D, approach.. Awareness Baseline Creative Solutions Decide on Priorities
    • 28. Exploring the relationship between public environmental ethics and river flood policies in western Europe Mirjam de Groot et al., Journal of Environmental Management 93 (2011) N=1811 Mastery over nature human beings stand above nature and may use it as they please, unfettered by moral restraints. Stewardship of nature human beings have the responsibility to take care of nature towards God or future generations. Partnership of nature is a metaphor for an equal relationship between human beings and nature: they work together in a dynamic process of mutual development Participation in nature. Participation in nature, human beings are part of nature in the sense that the connected- ness with nature gives meaning to the Participant’s life
    • 29. “ Madurodam ” (The Hague)
    • 30. Hans Brinker Most famous Dutch engineer… Hansje Brinker Statue “ Hansje Brinker ” , Spaarndam “ Madurodam ” The Hague
    • 31. < 1860 >1860 >1900 Overview Rhine river regulations (upper Rhine) River regulations Germany
    • 32. Resupply of bedload downstream Iffezheim 260.000 ton/y
    • 33. Waal river Lowering groynes to increase water discharge capacity
        • Lowering of groynes c. 2 m
      Costs: 90 mill AUD
    • 34. Digital Map-Table for hydraulic assessment
    • 35.  
    • 36.  
    • 37.  
    • 38. Costs: 13 mill AUD
    • 39. Solving the nature-safety dillemma Nijmegen Highway A50 Hydraulic resistance caused by forest
    • 40. 3 scenario’s for increasing water discharge capacity (Druten) Costs: 0 mill AUD