Call for papers : Dam removal: new environments and new landscapes?

A l’issue du séminaire organisé à Poitiers en Décembre 2015, Régis BARRAUD, Chris SNEDDON et Marie-Anne GERMAINE ont proposé à la revue Water Alternatives un numéro spécial portant sur les opérations de suppression de barrage. Ce numéro est ouvert à des contributions supplémentaires. Vous trouverez sur ce lien le texte de l’appel à contributions.

Dam removal: new environments and new landscapes? Social, cultural and political issues

Since the mid-1990s new principles have been adopted for the ecological management of rivers. To improve water quality and aquatic environments, it is no longer considered sufficient to reduce pollution. It becomes necessary to take into account the very structure of river environments in order to re-establish the bio-physical processes which have a positive impact on river dynamics. Among the most emblematic ecological restoration actions, removal of dams and weirs is a solution which is increasingly advocated not only by environmental associations, but also by institutional actors. The removal of hydraulic works is associated with a physical and symbolic “liberating” of rivers. The promotion of dam removal would appear to go hand in hand with the quest for the wild river. The ecological impact of these actions, (in terms of processes, improvement and risk factors), as well as their technical aspects, are well documented by the scientific community, although many uncertainties remain.

However, the removal of such hydraulic structures also raises several issues in terms of the decision process, change of use, landscape and values. In both Europe and North America, there are an increasing number of such actions in a context which can sometimes become conflicting. The success and failure of consultation processes, public participation and the role of local communities, the linking of ecological restoration operations and local development projects are among the issues studied by researchers in the social sciences. This special issue specifically intends to bring together international specialists in order to better apprehend the dam removal movement based on a comparative analysis of its implementation and its spatial implications, between North America (where it first began) and Europe (where the implementation of the Water Framework Directive has modified river management principles).

This special issue aims to focus on social, cultural and political issues of dam removal in order to explore the following overarching questions:

  • What does the increase of dam removal projects tell us about the representation of rivers today?
  • What are the arguments and objectives put forward by the different actors who promote dam removal projects?
  • What is the constellation of drivers that encouraged the dam removal and the shift of river management?
  • What is the role of state services, NGO, fish services… in the dam removal process and what kind of interactions they have with local people toward dam removal?
  • How are river restoration projects received and debated at local scale?
  • How to resolve conflicts generated by dam removal decision? Which tools can be useful to improve river diagnosis and build a share vision for the river?
  • How to conciliate ecological objectives with local development issues and inhabitants expectations?

One of the aims of this Special Issue is to propose an overview of social issues concerning dam removal in different areas, more specially North America and Europe, in order to understand what the specificities of each region are. To this end, we invite both empirically grounded and theoretical reflections on these issues from those interested in exploring social dimensions of dam removal.

  • Papers may concern a specific case study at local scale (conflicts analysis, landscape river representations, consultation processes). They may also propose a regional or national analysis (institutional context, politic debates). They may be focused on a comparison between different countries or regions.
  • Papers may be based on a more general approach. They may address the spread of river management principles and “wild river” model from North America to Europe. They may focus on methodological aspects to take into account social dimensions of rivers and to improve dialogue on river future. Consultation and participation tools useful for water governance may be described. Papers may describe case studies where debates were organized on dam removal.