By Catalina Rey Hernandez | Water Resources Management Group, Wageningen University
A central point of the Riverside Meetings discussions has been the concept of ‘commons’ as the notion of self-governance arrangements of collective goods/resources that are not privately held and can be tangible or intangible (De Moor, 2011). Therefore, for our first Riverside Meeting we went on a field visit to the Renkum valley (Renkumse Beekdal) to learn and get insights from locally involved actors that have redesigned and reorganized the river’s ecology, territory, and governance under the concept of ‘commoning’.
The Renkum valley has a history of afforestation, industrial and agricultural land use which has led to a process of biodiversity loss due to a desiccation and degradation of its stream ecosystems (Reis Oliveira et al, 2020; Witte et all, 2019). As nowadays the valley has lost its industrial and agricultural value, pressure from society helped to get (semi) self-governing initiatives to order the sociological-ecological space of the valley (Slijkhuis, 2021). Hence, multiple local commoning and municipal river valley restoration actions are being developed for nature conservation and to create an attractive environment for recreation (Jongman, 1990).
During our visit to the valley, volunteers from the “Informatiecentrum Renkums Beekdal” guided us through the landscape and its ‘sprengen’ (artificial brooks) that have been restored, and that under constant maintenance can have water flow again. Through our walk, we were able to get insights of the historical evolution of this ‘human-made’ landscape, its maintenance and protection; and how different competing users claim to organize, use and govern the water flows in the area.
To finalize the excursion, we gathered under the trees of the valley to discuss our insights and debate how the conception of commons can help us to enrich our knowledge to manage resources collectively and in a fairer way, not only for humans, but also for other beings that are an essential part of the landscape and its ecosystems.
De Moor, T. (2011). From common pastures to global commons: A historical perspective on interdisciplinary approaches to Commons. Natures Sciences Sociétés, 19(4), 422–431. https://doi.org/10.1051/nss/2011133
dos Reis Oliveira, P. C., van der Geest, H. G., Kraak, M. H. S., Westveer, J. J., Verdonschot, R. C. M., & Verdonschot, P. F. M. (2020). Over forty years of Lowland Stream Restoration: Lessons Learned? Journal of Environmental Management, 264, 110417. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvman.2020.110417
Jongman, R. H. G. (1990). Conservation of brooks in small watersheds: A case for planning. Landscape and Urban Planning, 19(1), 55–68. https://doi.org/10.1016/0169-2046(90)90035-z
Witte, J. M., Voortman, B., Nijhuis, K., van Huijgevoort, M., Rijpkema, S. & Spek, T. (2019). Met het historische landschap verdween er water van de Veluwe. Stromingen, 33(1), 91-108.
Slijkhuis, H. (2021). Waarom Voeren de veluwse sprengen en beken steeds minder water. From https://www.henk-weltje.nl/verdroging-op-de-veluwe/waarom-voeren-de-veluwse-sprengen-en-beken-steeds-minder-water-af-slijkhuis-2021