Critically evaluate the contention that the active and effective involvement of stakeholders in sustainable floodplain management is desirable but difficult to achieve in practice.

Critically evaluate the contention that the active and effective involvement of stakeholders in sustainable floodplain management is desirable but difficult to achieve in practice.


Environmental nuisance are usually multifaceted, vague, and have caused a lot of consequence on various places (WMO, 2007). This has called for a transparent process in decision making which is able to fit varying situation and embraces a multiplicity of ideas and principles (Affeltranger, 2001; Simonovic, 2000; Simonovic and Akter, 2006; WMO, 2007). In achieving this, the involvement of stakeholders is increasingly being used and introduced in environmental decision making process from local to global level (Reed, 2008, 2009). The management of Floodplain comprises of different resource activities which are designed to reduce the effect of flood on people, environment and economy of the country (Simonovic and Akter, 2006). The management of floodplain play a major role in the protection of the socio economic development of a place (WMO, 2007). Achieving sustainable floodplain management, decision-making would involve an integrated reflection on the fiscal, environmental and societal consequences of catastrophic flood actions (Wurbs, 1999). Given economic consideration more concern in floodplain management, stakeholder’s involvement needs more attention (Affeltranger, 2001), while local community leaders, government agencies, policy makers, non- governmental organisations (NGO’s), and general public involvement should be encouraged in the making floodplain management choices (Affeltranger, 2001).

The involvement of stakeholders exists under various names which include interactive governance, joint up process and participatory process (Healy 1997, Mason 2000, Edelenbos 2000 and Pollitt 2003). Stakeholders involvement is a multi-faceted phenomenon, viewed from hypothetical viewpoint, and is defined as “the early involvement of individual citizens in public policy making in order to explore policy problems and develop solutions in an open and fair process of debate that has influence on decision making” (Edelenbos, 2003), allowing other actors in a democratic society to participate in certain policy making decision (Chess and Purcell, 1999; Gerrits and Edelenbos, 2004). Floodplain management decisions may be designed and made effective without the involvement of stakeholders, they cannot be effectively implemented without them (Affeltranger, 2001).

Good governance as defined by kooiman, (1993) is a broad and present-day strategy, unfolding not mainly to the administration of the state but the method of communication between groups, societal actors, public and private institutions (Benn et al, 2009), and noted that the understanding between different stakeholders and the government does not assume decline of the state but rather, an interactive state, where public and private communication will lead to better organization and harmony amid a range of discipline (Benn et al, 2009; Pierre, 2000).

The participation of stakeholders in water management has a very long tradition, stating the change witnessed in the UK, on the increase in stakeholder participation over the last 30 years in water related problems, and has been prompted by public concern (Patel and Stel, 2004). This brought a change in the role played by stakeholders’ participation in management of floodplain with the introduction of the water frame work directive (WFD) (Defra 2003). Orr et al, (2007) noted that the environmental agency in England and Wales relied on the alliance of a large scope of collaborators, making sure that they attain a successful implementation (Orr et al, 2007; Gerrits and Edelenbos, 2004). For example, floodplain management in the Attenborough district tends to be on a large scale and would involve a lagre number of stakeholders, while the red river flood of 1997, which was one of the worst in record in many locations, as described by Simonovic and Akter, (2006), caused a widespread damage. The recommendations that resulted during participation could slow down or over-complicate the management process (Simonovic and Akter, 2006).

Concerns over the participation of stakeholders, not living up to their claims, are being made (Cooke, 2001; Nelson and Wright, 1995) as opined by (Burton et al, 2004), that consultational fatigue could arise during the process of participation which are not always well organised, having the notion that their influence or participation do not have effect on decision made (Burton et al, 2004; Mazmanian and Nienaber, 1979; Stewart et al., 1984; Chess and Purcell, 1999; Reed et al., 2006). When this happens, there could be decline in the levels of engagement, putting their credibility of participation at risk (Reed, 2008, Reed et al, 2009). These drawbacks implies that the practice of stakeholders participation is not as easy as it may seem (Gerrits and Edelenbos 2004), as the involvement of stakeholders in the management of floodplain is complex and has a lot of dynamic issues (Gerrits and Edelenbos 2004; Baylis and Smith 1999). Consistency in stakeholders participation should move towards early engagement, providing an understandable information, transparent attitude, understanding the needs and interest of others by listening to them (Kothari, 2001), offering opportunities for participation with the purpose of making efficient use of time and resources which allows stakeholders to have a valuable contribution (Ludwig, 2001; Gerrits and Edelenbos, 2004). It is no surprise when the European commission (EC) demanded active interaction in the management of water, particularly when dealing with floodplain, and noted that the process should be consolidative through the water frame work directive (WFD), (Van Ast and Boot, 2003). Moreover, participation is seen as crucial in any programme of environmental governance (Bulkeley and Mol, 2003; Burton et al, 2004), especially in flood plain management as arguments in favour of participatory approach are more beneficial in the quality of decisions made and implemented, thereby increasing democratic content, (Bulkeley and Mol, 2003).

Claims regarding the arguments for stakeholder’s involvement in environmental decision-making can be categorized under normative and pragmatic arguments (Reed 2008). Normative claims argue that the participation of stakeholders reduce the likelihood of societal marginalisation where decisions affecting them can be promoted and enhanced for their benefits (Martin and Sherington, 1997), stakeholder empowerment (Greenwood et al, 1993; MacNaughten and Jacobs, 1997; Okali et al., 1994; Wallerstein, 1999), social learning and public trust in civil society in a transparent view as well as more holistic environmental decision (Richards et al., 2004; Blackstock et al., 2007), while pragmatic claims are focused on the excellence and robustness of environmental outputs (Reed 2008). It is also argued that the participation of stakeholders would increase or enhance a more robust research by the provision of inputs (Hansen, 1994; Reed et al., 2006, 2008; Yosie and Herbst, 1998), and that participation enhances better adaptation of technology to local socio-cultural and environmental conditions by meeting the needs of the locals, and also attaining higher quality decisions based on trust and a sense of ownership over the output of their decision, therefore reducing cost depending on the nature of their initiative (Martin and Sherington, 1997; Reed, 2007; Reed and Dougill 2007; Richards et al., 2004; Stringer et al., 2006; Fischer, 2000; Beierle, 2002; Koontz and Thomas, 2006; Newig, 2007).

In spite of these frontlines, there is an expanding concern on the part of the public that the participation of stakeholders on the claims made have not been realised (Kothari, 2001), as the credibility of stakeholders have been questioned in terms of lack of knowledge to engage highly scientific and environmental debates (Fischer and Young, 2007).

However, Fritsch and Newig carried out a study to evaluate the environmental policies on participatory processes, framework and environmental outputs of 35 cases of local and regional participation in North America and Western Europe and found out that, the most important goals of participants on environmental effectiveness was high interest in sustainable environmental benefits (Reed, 2008). Similar studies of fisheries management in Bangladesh and the involvement of 239 participants in environmental management decision-making were both noted to have improve the quality of decisions made, adding new analysis, innovation and ideas (Beierle, 2002; Sultana and Abeyasekera, 2007; Reed, 2008), but noted that the quality of decisions obtained from these studies relies on the quality of process that leads to it (Reed, 2007).

Meagher and Lyall, (2007), cited the case of stakeholder participation in the development and funding of seed-corn, where the rate at which the collaborators responded was very fast (Meagher and Lyall, 2007). The information given to stakeholders in terms of deliberation in the decision making process would be beneficial in the quality of decided outcomes (Chase et al, 2004; Fischer and Young, 2007; Webler and Tuler, 2006). Stakeholders demonstrate different perceptions and have different relationship to natural hazards, thereby reflecting diverse socio-economic and socio-psychological background (Affeltranger, 2001; Zimmerman, 2001). The participation of stakeholder’s in floodplain management is a unique opportunity for government establishment to measure the possibility of local scheme for flood disaster improvement and management (Affeltranger, 2001), and also a new behaviour by participating stakeholders. In choosing stakeholders for policy decision making in floodplain management, careful attention must be paid to a diversity of stakeholders as asymmetry indicates the differences between various stakeholders. Therefore, with this in mind, right symmetry is an imaginary state that will not arise in practice, as initiatives achieved on paper often lacked ratification and implementation (Van Ast 2000b).

The model laid down by the participation of stakeholders will certainly be different and uneven (Osborne et al, 2002). The level at which uncertainty becomes higher, participating in decision making becomes more complicated while those who make up the institution in the direction of handling uncertainty becomes more technical (Clark, 2002).

In a recent study on climate change policy, issues have been raised frequently whether the scope for deliberation and the consensus outcomes from participation is a measure of success (Flyvberg 1998; Owens 2000; Borsuk et al., 2001; Kwok et al., 2001; Bender and Simonovic, 2000; Despic and Simonovic, 2000; Kacprzyk and Nurmi, 1998). Pellizzoni noted the conditions in which radical uncertainty is characterized in the techniques perceived under the risk and environmental issues deliberated by experts and non experts stakeholders may in fact challenge their decisions (Bulkeley and Mol, 2003), and also noted that outcome realised from the participation of stakeholders are not straight forward, stating that their involvement into guiding principle depends on the selection of political factors over which the stakeholders have little influence, (Bulkeley and Mol, 2003).

Questions encountered on how participation should be institutionalised and organised and those involved should be taken into consideration, making sure decision made should not paralyse the programme, (Burton, 2003).

Participation is not all about representing the people, but the value and ideas they carry (Bulkeley and Mol, 2003; Simonovic and Akter, 2005; Reed, 2008). Early participation from the beginning through conception, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of outcomes should be encouraged as early involvement and transparent information will lead to a certain level of quality and robust decision that could lead to success.


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