Water innovation for a circular economy - the ...

URL: http://opendata.waterjpi.eu/dataset/713b6e11-f7f2-48a6-bad5-22b87ba69983/resource/60f0050f-13cf-4bbd-85e7-e52e04d435dc/download/clearance_water-innovation-for-a-circular-economy-the-contribution-of-actors-from-the-grassroots.pdf

The CLEARANCE project focus on regeneration of wetland functions via the restoration of wetland buffer zones and the exploration of new value chains based on wet agriculture possibilities. The approach seeks to contribute to improved river water quality and thus to moderate the eutrophication of the Baltic Sea. As Northern European countries have historically drained a large percentage of their wetlands, the solution suggests the rehabilitation of natural sinks. However, former drainage and land use led to enrichment of mobile nutrients at the upper few decimetres of the soil layer. Accordingly, rewetted sites are often characterized by fast growing plant species while the recolonization with plants adapted to nutrient poor conditions can be retarded over decades. The idea to re-use plants from such zones is a way to take nutrients out of the agricultural waste chain and re-insert them in the local (or other) economy value chains thus links the restoration work to circular economy. The discussion of water innovations from the grassroots suggests three considerations innovation and valuation respectively. Innovation process 1. Consider Varieties of Modes of Provision for Wetland Value Chains: There is no need to limit the focus to market provision only. Rewetting is also potentially interesting in the context of self- and communal provision (and their agricultural activities) or publicly owned and managed land. The idea of adding a paludiculture value-chain element does not need to be conceptualised in narrowly conceived market provision terms. It is an open question to what extent other forms of provision, or hybrids (such as social enterprises or cooperatives) are more suitable in some contexts and in addition strengthen the social dimension of circular economy. 2. Consider rationality both of wetland restoration with wet agriculture and of those resisting changes in this direction. The Clearance idea is straightforward as an ecological idea; it is not so as a political idea. Drained wetlands and wetland buffer zones usually are used by others, and hence their restoration and the associated change in land use is likely to meet with scepticism or even resistance. Therefore, it is important to understand the different rationalities of actions and their mutual perception so as to facilitate the change process (and recognize good reasons for non-adoption in some contexts). 3. Foster network creation and fora: It is important to create a regular forum or group that allows all interested to discuss and advance the topic. In this way, the stakeholder perception of isolated ‘projects’ with little long-term vision can be countered, and space is created to validate experience and exchange lessons on often contested implementation issues. Change processes in the densely regulated societies of the European Union are often slow, labour- and knowledge-intensive. Valuation 1. Address people not only as stakeholders in a process, but as citizens that can reflect on, deliberate and implement decisions in their respective catchment. In recognition of the political nature of land-use changes it is important to recognize and use the civic foundation of such decisions. 2. Framing and relational value: Grassroots innovators pay attention to framing and the way ‘problems’ are presented. 3. Values, waste hierarchy and mission-drift: The circular economy principle of ‘reduction’ with curbing of consumption/production is likely to get marginalised in favour of recycling in market-driven economies. Thus, a focus on WZB with paludiculture removes attention from the prior fertiliser input, and the need to reduce there (for example, implementation of the Nitrate Directive). This undermines the waste hierarchy of circular economy that calls for a priority of reduction rather than down-stream regeneration and reuse.

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