Producing the social-natural river : Promoting ecological continuity in France

Authors: Jacques-Aristide PERRIN*, University of Limoges (France)
Topics: Political Geography, Social Geography, Water Resources and Hydrology
Keywords: conflict, ecological continuity, river, France
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 3:20 PM / 5:00 PM
Room: Jackson, Marriott, 5th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

The health of European rivers has been aligned with the Water Framework Directive, which promotes the concept of river continuity. This concept was codified in French law in 2006, whereby it was termed “ecological continuity of rivers” and defined as the free movement of living organisms and the efficient transfer of natural sediments.

Producing the ecological continuity of rivers implies adjustment or removal of hydraulic structures that impede the migration of various organisms and the transportation of sediments. A 2014 inventory listed some 80 000 hydraulic works in France, the vast majority of which are small-scale works including weirs, mill dams and ford–crossings. Applying the policy of ecological continuity, however, has generated much conflict (due to things such as the cost of remedial works like fish passes, opposition by mill-owners to the modification/destruction of their property, unwillingness of local residents to alter the waterscapes that they have become familiar with, preference for the historical uses of watercourses, etc.) and scientific controversy (over the scientific uncertainties of the effects to removing hydraulic structures and the lack of knowledge surrounding questions like the impact of removing hydraulic structures on species invasion).

In this paper, we analyse these conflicts, taking into account their various aspects (including as scientific controversies, political disputes, cultural differences, contests of public policy, etc.) We adopt a normative approach with the ultimate aim of improving the construction of a common project between policy designers, watercourse managers, state officials, owners of hydraulic works and local residents.

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