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Department of Geography


River Basin Governance Research and Network (RiBaGo)

The RiBaGo project is managed by Keith Richards and Andre Silveira, and is supported by a number of funding bodies, listed below, and organizations.

The aims of RiBaGo

RiBaGo is interested in studying institutional structures for water management in the European and Chinese contexts, in order to help understand key water governance challenges, and attempts to solve them, over time. It is analysing drivers, constraints and processes of integration in river basin management in both the EU and China (Integrated River Basin Management; IRBM), by:

(i) exploring the history of IRBM in the EU through appraisal of its various interacting institutional strategies, its development of trans-boundary river basin institutions, and its relationship to scientific research needs; and

(ii) assessing the need for IRBM in China; the institutional constraints that limit the country’s capacity to improve its water environment; and the potential for Chinese water institutional structures to learn from positive and negative experiences in the European history of river basin management .

It is also investigating the idea of “Adaptive” River Basin Management (ARBM), first using a European case to explore how negotiation and adaptation typify implementation of relevant Directives, especially in trans-boundary river basin management, and then considering how ARBM’s focus on negotiation, flexibility and subsidiarity will bear on what this European process suggests for Chinese river basin management. Other dimensions of its interest in the institutional character of river basin and water management include polycentric and multi-level forms of governance.

RiBaGo activities

RiBaGo is supporting research, and a series of workshops that will offer an interdisciplinary, international platform to integrate natural science knowledge and social science research in IRBM and ARBM, focusing on public policy, regulatory frameworks, institutional change, distributional equity, sustainability, and social impact.

The workshops form part of an ESRC Interdisciplinary Research Training Network examining institutional issues in RBM, drawing on legal, economic, social and political scholarship, and on theories of historical institutionalism, path dependency, and plural rationality; and will apply the sociology of scientific and technical knowledge to the implementation of environmental regulation. European participants in this network include the IHP-HELP Centre for Water Law, Policy and Science at the University of Dundee (Patricia Wouters) and the Oxford Water Futures Programme (Rachael McDonnell), the Leibniz-Institut für Regionalentwicklung und Strukturplanung in Erkner (Tim Moss), the Water Resources Management Group at TU Delft (Erik Mostert and Sandra Junier), and the Institute of Environmental Systems Research at the University of Osnabrück (Claudia Pahl-Wostl).

The international workshops are intended to provide training in theory and methods in the examination of IRBM and environmental governance, and opportunities for doctoral students, post-doctoral fellows and early career researchers from the UK, EU and China to interact and exchange ideas and information about research experiences.

RiBaGo collaborated with the EU-China River Basin Management Programme, some of whose Chinese partners participated in the RiBaGo workshops (including delegations from the Pearl River Basin Commission to the inaugural meeting in 2009, and the Yellow River Commission to the Cambridge meeting in September 2010). Andre Silveira acted as rapporteur during two exchange EU-China RBMP missions involving European and Chinese River Basin Commissions, and a report was also written for the Programme on the exchange visits that were organised by the RiBaGo project. These reports are: the EU Mission to the Yellow River Final Report, the EU Mission to Yangtze River Basin Report, and the RiBaGo Exchange Report. These can be downloaded here. Also, Feng Mao is undertaking a PhD project on the growing interest in ecological water quality assessment in China, a theme which was supported by the EU China River Basin Management Programme and involved him in collaboration with leading eco-hydrologists in China. RiBaGo was also actively involved in the ESF-funded Conference on Water Governance: Meeting the Challenges of Global Change.

RiBaGo Workshops

Four RiBaGo workshops have been held: one in November 2009 in Macau and Guangzhou, a second in September 2010 in Cambridge, a third in August-September 2011 in Beijing, and a fourth in Cambridge in June 2012. The first Workshop provided a general introduction to the research themes of the RiBaGo project, and the second examined multi-level and polycentric governance of water with a focus on local-scale institutions, especially in the Fens. The third meeting in Beijing had a more top-down focus, examining international, national and provincial scales and trans-boundary river basin management. The final meeting was an interesting mix of theoretical and practical issues, and involved participants from the water industry, and was jointly convened with Dick Fenner from the Sustainable Engineering group in Cambridge.

The programmes and participants in these workshops can be viewed in the following downloads:

The First (Macau-Guangzhou, 2009) RiBaGo Workshop programme and participants.

The Second (Cambridge, 2010) RiBaGo Workshop programme and participants; and the fieldtrip booklet.

The Third (Beijing, August-September, 2011) RiBaGo Workshop programme and participants, and the fieldtrip booklet.

The Fourth (Cambridge, June 2012) RiBaGo Workshop booklet including programme and participant list.

RiBaGo Funding

The funding for RiBaGo has involved support from the following sponsors:

The Co-Reach Programme (Coordination of Research between China and Europe)

In August 2008, the CO-REACH ERA network launched the first multi-lateral Sino-European research programme in the field of social science research. The aim was to stimulate joint research between Europe and China by supporting collaborative research initiatives in thematic areas in the social sciences and humanities. This multilateral Sino-European call was jointly funded by 11 research funding organisations from 6 European countries and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences from China. Keith Richards (Cambridge), Jiahua Pan (CASS) and Tim Moss (IRS, Erkner, Germany) received Co-Reach support for a project entitled River Basin Governance: IRBM in the EU and China (RiBaGo). More information on the organisations involved and the full list of projects supported in the sphere of social sciences is available.

The Economic and Social Research Council

The ESRC supports the international research training network, the River Basin Governance Research Network: The European Union and China, which involves early career researchers from the UK, EU and China who participate in the workshop and research activities of RiBaGo.

The International Institute of Macau

The IIM has also generously supported the project Workshops, especially by funding attendance by Chinese scholars who are not associated with CASS; it is also supporting the attendance at the Beijing meeting of some international participants from European River Basin Commissions.