| Handling the Democratic Deficit in Water Management in Turkey:
The WFD and Current ‘Public Participation’ Practices
|Dr. Vakur Sümer, ORSAM Water Research Programme Advisory Boa Selçuk University Department of International Relations
|It is recognized that public participation is of key importance for a successful river basin management.(1) Public participation to implementation of water management policy reduces the problems of legitimacy and enforcement.
Achieving public participation is also essential from the point of view of the Water Framework Directive (WFD). WFD basically requires realization of a “river basin management” approach through implementation of River Basin Management Plans (RBMPs) which consist of programs of measures defined for each river basin district. Adopting participatory governance as the modus operandi, instead of a technocratic administration is regarded as one of the distinctive features of river basin management approach. It is recognized that public participation is of key importance for a successful river basin management.(2) Public participation to implementation of water management policy reduces the problems of legitimacy and enforcement.
In parallel to aforementioned arguments, WFD specifically attaches great significance to the concept of public participation. It is stated in Recital 14 of the Directive that “[T]he success of this Directive relies on close cooperation and coherent action at Community, Member State and local level as well as on information, consultation and involvement of the public, including users.” Although the phrase “public participation” does not appear in the Directive, three forms of public participation with an increasing level of involvement are mentioned: information supply; consultation; and active involvement.(3) According to the Directive, the first two are to be ensured, the latter should be encouraged. According to Article 14, Member States are obliged to “encourage the active involvement of all interested parties in the implementation” of WFD. As stipulated by the Directive, public participation should be ensured before the final decisions on the measures in river basin management plans are taken.(4)
As the RBMPs would cover a number of issues pertaining to management of water resources on the river basin scale (e.g. pricing, monitoring, land use, transboundary aspects, treatment, etc.), public participation requirement of the WFD should be understood as implying a broad perspective for involvement of public in decision making processes.(5)
Due to a number of reasons, participation of public in political decision making processes tends to be low in Turkey.(6) This has implications for many policy areas including water management policy. Therefore, the level of public participation in water management policy in Turkey is similar to what has been experienced in other areas of political decision making procedures. Concerning the three forms of public participation, while “information supply” and “consultation” are partly put into practice, “active involvement” of stakeholders is not encouraged by tangible institutions or procedures. While legislation provides for public participation, public disclosure of information is weak.
Environmental Impact Assessment framework is argued to be the single institutionalized instrument in Turkey allows for direct participation of the public in decision-making with respect to water resources development. Apart from the EIA processes, “information supply” is not much developed. For instance, a study by Euro-Mediterranean Information System on Know-How in the Water Sector (EMWIS) found that monitoring data dissemination in Turkey is one of the lowest among eleven Mediterranean partner countries (Algeria, Cyprus, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Syria, Tunisia and Turkey).(7) Also, water quality data is not shared with public, with respect to transboundary waters.(8)
Mostly, “information supply”, and, at best, “consultation” are two forms that public participation in Turkey practically takes place. Management of irrigation by users provides an example for “active involvement”. An intensification of mechanisms enabling “active involvement” of public to decision-making processes appears to be necessary for a true public participation framework to be created in Turkey.
(1) Aybike Ayfer Karadağ and Mehmet Emin Barış, “Isparta İli Kovada Alt Havzası Katılımcı Havza Yönetimi Sürecinde Paydaş Analizi Araştırması”, in Tarım Bilimleri Dergisi, Vol. 15, No. 3, 2009, p. 259.
(3) See European Communities, “Guidance Document No. 8”.
(4) Recital 46 of the WFD states: “To ensure the participation of the general public including users of water in the establishment and updating of river basin management plans, it is necessary to provide proper information of planned measures and to report on progress with their implementation with a view to the involvement of the general public before final decisions on the necessary measures are adopted.”
(5) For a detailed account of public participation in the WFD, see European Communities, “Guidance Document No. 8”.
(6) Mustafa Ökmen and Fatih Demir, “Türkiye’de Katılımcı Çevresel Etki Değerlendirmesi ve Uşak İli Örneği”, in Dumlupınar Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Dergisi, Vol. 27, August 2010, pp. 271-272. These reasons could be summarized as the Ottoman legacy, military interventions, frequent changes in election legislation, lack of implementation of the laws related to decentralized administration (e.g. municipal laws).
(7) For details see EMWIS, Characterisation of the Monitoring networks and programs in the Mediterranean Partner Countries: Synthesis of Survey Answers, on file with the author, 08.10.2010.
(8) Yavuz Çubukçu, International Law Expert in Ministry of Foreign Affairs, personal interview, Brussels, January 2008.