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La gestion française des rivières et ses indicateurs à l'épreuve de la directive cadre

Abstract : European directive 2000/60/CE establishes a framework for Community action in the field of water policy. It states objectives of good ecological status for water bodies. Cost-effective measures of protection and restoration should be planned and enforced within a tight schedule. In France, State institutions of river management used to design and support actions considered as ecologically positive. But performance of the river policy was never assessed. Ecological assessment and biological indicators were not processed for decision making.
Biological indicators can be seen as freak sets. Indicators are basically tools used by engineers and managers to make trade-offs. Whereas biology deals with life and death, that are incommensurable. According to the literature, engineers and naturalists have little in common. Engineers are considered as modern figures of conquerors, looking for efficacy, regardless of politics. Fishermen or biologists on the contrary are seen as inquiring observers, willing to alert people of ecological threat. The first benefit from important financial means, the latter have much less economic power.
However, biologists and engineers sometimes happened to work on the same issues. Several “abnormal” beings which did not fit in management models were identified by biologists and then enrolled in “normal” management procedures. To study how biologists hand over to managers, I consider institutions as social constructions which can change. Using Anthony Giddens' theory of structuration (1987), I focus on structures of signification, legitimation and domination that are embedded in both organisations and indicators. I follow the historical path of outsiders (Becker 1985) who rallied people's interest in new ecological problems by networking (Latour 1989). I enlighten which conditions help them to change institutions. I make the link between models and legitimacy of public policy (Foucault 1978-79).
I relate the intertwining trajectories of river models and laws dealing with rivers. Such an epic reveals common strategies and contexts of people engaged in creating and promoting biological indicators. Four steps of indicators construction can be stated : wording, numbers setting, variables setting and modelling (Desrosières 2003).
Then I focus on French water agencies to understand why they do not rely on biological assessment for their decisions. I propose to analyse their ways of thinking and ways of doing in three sets which correspond to three different advocacy coalitions (Sabatier et Jenkins-Smith 1993) dealing with water management. I explain that actors in agencies can be seen as playing a strategic game with non-stabilised projects. The way they reorganise projects to fulfill constraints and seize opportunities is quite similar to the way biologists organise biological information to speak for rivers. Such practises are fruitful for adaptation and social learning.
Then looking at the European level, I present the political context which gave birth to the water framework directive. It explains what is going to change in terms of evaluation. Not only criteria of assessment are changing but the whole scene of justification is getting more and more uncertain. My conclusion is that advocacy evaluations are needed to deconstruct and discuss indicators that will be used for managing rivers.
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Contributor : Gabrielle Bouleau <>
Submitted on : Tuesday, July 10, 2007 - 1:07:31 PM
Last modification on : Saturday, October 24, 2020 - 3:41:57 AM
Long-term archiving on: : Thursday, April 8, 2010 - 8:01:31 PM


  • HAL Id : tel-00161257, version 1


Gabrielle Bouleau. La gestion française des rivières et ses indicateurs à l'épreuve de la directive cadre. Sciences de l'Homme et Société. AgroParisTech, 2007. Français. ⟨NNT : 07AGPT0066⟩. ⟨tel-00161257⟩



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