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Environmental conflict and decision-making: the case of hydroelectric power

Environmental conflict and decision-making: the case of hydroelectric power
Environmental conflict and decision-making: the case of hydroelectric power
As management of the environment becomes more complex and the number of potentially conflicting issues to be balanced expands, there will be increasing and more intense debates about the course(s) of action(s) to be taken. Navigation of conflict determines trade-offs established and decisions taken, and will become progressively important, as the need to unify incompatible uses grows. Both definition and management of environmental conflict is ambiguous, lacking in understanding and mechanisms to effectively handle disputes. Interdisciplinary consideration of conflict highlights its potential to yield functional and dysfunctional aspects, recognising dispute is not inherently negative. Framing environmental debates as conflict situations may yield substantial management benefits.

Using case studies (UK), this research identifies the impact of stakeholder conflict on achieving sustainable decision-making, and, seeks to develop conceptual tools to aid exploration of disputes, using the issue of hydropower development. Growing environment awareness has simultaneously emphasised the benefits of hydroelectric power and its environmental costs. In a changing policy climate, where renewable energy generation potential and environmental protection are needed, conflict between stakeholders is considerable. To meet practitioner’s needs, an understanding of conflict is needed.

Findings highlight the existence and nature of stakeholder conflict. Environmental conflict is epitomized by: parameters of the problem, characteristics of the stakeholders and dispute process. Conflict is recognised as a platform for expression which may yield functional or dysfunctional consequences for decision-making. The impact of the individual is significant; variables such as perceptions, behaviours and personalities, alongside facets of the problem, characterise disputes. Assessment of conflict at a range of spatial and temporal scales, established capacity for escalation, stagnation and the development of impasses, each with differential impacts on decision-making.

A conceptual framework illustrating the impact of conflict on decision-making, and role in the facilitation of change is generated. Conflict is recognised as a critical management point for facilitating sustainable decisions. From a management perspective, it is important to manage conflict at this critical point to achieve the best decision. This research outlines an alternative approach to the conceptualisation and management of environmental conflict, and highlights the significant impact of the individuals involved. The identification, application and further development of methodologies have yielded a number of conceptual tools for conflict management. Recognising the important role of conflict as a mechanism for change may be crucial for the future of environmental management.
Watkin, L.
dcf6054a-870e-45a4-83b0-429e0be43d30
Watkin, L.
dcf6054a-870e-45a4-83b0-429e0be43d30
Williams, Ian
c9d674ac-ee69-4937-ab43-17e716266e22

Watkin, L. (2012) Environmental conflict and decision-making: the case of hydroelectric power. University of Southampton, Faculty of Engineering and the Environment, Doctoral Thesis, 343pp.

Record type: Thesis (Doctoral)

Abstract

As management of the environment becomes more complex and the number of potentially conflicting issues to be balanced expands, there will be increasing and more intense debates about the course(s) of action(s) to be taken. Navigation of conflict determines trade-offs established and decisions taken, and will become progressively important, as the need to unify incompatible uses grows. Both definition and management of environmental conflict is ambiguous, lacking in understanding and mechanisms to effectively handle disputes. Interdisciplinary consideration of conflict highlights its potential to yield functional and dysfunctional aspects, recognising dispute is not inherently negative. Framing environmental debates as conflict situations may yield substantial management benefits.

Using case studies (UK), this research identifies the impact of stakeholder conflict on achieving sustainable decision-making, and, seeks to develop conceptual tools to aid exploration of disputes, using the issue of hydropower development. Growing environment awareness has simultaneously emphasised the benefits of hydroelectric power and its environmental costs. In a changing policy climate, where renewable energy generation potential and environmental protection are needed, conflict between stakeholders is considerable. To meet practitioner’s needs, an understanding of conflict is needed.

Findings highlight the existence and nature of stakeholder conflict. Environmental conflict is epitomized by: parameters of the problem, characteristics of the stakeholders and dispute process. Conflict is recognised as a platform for expression which may yield functional or dysfunctional consequences for decision-making. The impact of the individual is significant; variables such as perceptions, behaviours and personalities, alongside facets of the problem, characterise disputes. Assessment of conflict at a range of spatial and temporal scales, established capacity for escalation, stagnation and the development of impasses, each with differential impacts on decision-making.

A conceptual framework illustrating the impact of conflict on decision-making, and role in the facilitation of change is generated. Conflict is recognised as a critical management point for facilitating sustainable decisions. From a management perspective, it is important to manage conflict at this critical point to achieve the best decision. This research outlines an alternative approach to the conceptualisation and management of environmental conflict, and highlights the significant impact of the individuals involved. The identification, application and further development of methodologies have yielded a number of conceptual tools for conflict management. Recognising the important role of conflict as a mechanism for change may be crucial for the future of environmental management.

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More information

Published date: July 2012
Organisations: University of Southampton, Civil Maritime & Env. Eng & Sci Unit

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 348832
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/348832
PURE UUID: 546ca492-d284-42bb-9de4-1998d9b4b184
ORCID for Ian Williams: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-0121-1219

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 05 Mar 2013 12:24
Last modified: 06 Jun 2018 12:42

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