Weschnitz Dialog: Communication and participation in the management of restoration measures along the river Weschnitz

In the course of a rehabilitation of flood levees along the Weschnitz, a unique window of opportunity was created for a comprehensive restoration with the aim to improve the ecological status of the water body. In the research project “Weschnitz Dialogue” new spaces and formats are created in combination with existing offers of environmental education in order to constructively regulate possible conflicts which might arise in connection with the restoration.

Research approach

In this application-oriented project, the scientific development of communication and participation formats is directly combined with the implementation of rehabilitation of flood levees. The project will supplement ongoing extended public participation procedures within the levee rehabilitation scheme. The following three measures are an indication of the innovative character of the project:

  • Combination of dialogue formats with a preceding conflict analysis, and implementation within the framework of a specific engineering project which is still at an early planning stage.
  • Citizen Science: A web-based information and participation platform and integration of existing environmental education programs at local schools (e.g. ‘Naturparkschule’) enable collecting diverse knowledge about the Weschnitz, as well as communicating social-ecological interdependencies even beyond the envisaged levee rehabilitation measure.
  • Transfer of the latest research results from the NiddaMan research project to an example from another river catchment area and integration into a river management scheme at an early stage. This allows new insights on the potential of communication and participation formats .

Background 

About 90 percent of Germany's surface waters do not meet the goal of a good ecological status set by the EU Water Framework Directive. Biodiversity and water body structures are too heavily modified and are still subject to the entry of too many pollutants. This also applies to the Weschnitz, a tributary of the Rhine in southern Hesse and northern Baden-Württemberg that is approximately 60 km long. The levee rehabilitation between Einhausen and Biblis opens up a unique window of opportunity for a comprehensive restoration of the Weschnitz on a 4.5 km long section. However, the expected ecological benefit is countered by land use requirements, e.g. on the part of agriculture or settlement development. Here it is important to counteract possible conflicts at an early stage with suitable measures for information, dialogue and participation.

Practice partners

  • Gewässerverband Bergstraße
  • Geo-Naturepark Bergstrasse-Odenwald

Funding

The project „Weschnitz Dialog Kommunikation und Beteiligung beim Management von Renaturierungsmaßnahmen entlang der Weschnitz“ (Weschnitz Dialog Communication and Participation in the Management of Restoration Measures along the Weschnitz River) was commissioned by the Gewässerverband Bergstraße and is funded by the Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt (DBU).

Duration

2019/04 – 2021/04