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An assessment of scale-sensitivity in policy design and implementation of the EU Water Framework Directive within the context of the Danube Basin

Tahira Syed
Tufts University, Medford, Boston, USA;

Enamul Choudhury
School of Public and International Affairs, Wright State University, Dayton, Ohio, USA;

Shafiqul Islam
Water Diplomacy Program, Tufts University, Medford, Boston, USA;

ABSTRACT: Scales and boundaries are integral components of environmental governance policies. These scales and boundaries – administrative, political or institutional – usually do not align with biophysical scales. For effective environmental governance, a key policy question is which scale to use when. This question, however, is often ignored due to the unavailability of the tools and data necessary for incorporating scale issues into policy design and implementation. In this paper, we introduce the concept of scale–descale–rescale (SDR) as a tool for policy analysis. 'scale' refers to the current scale of a policy; 'descale' refers to levels of scale that are higher and lower than the current scale; 'rescale' refers to the process of bringing all three scales together in order to examine their interactive impact. In this paper, we present an examination of the framing and implementation of the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD) in the Danube River Basin; we find that the current scale of the WFD design is at the river basin level while, at the same time, its implementation is expected to be carried out at the national and sub-river basin levels. To fully understand the efficacy of the WFD as a policy instrument, we first use the SDR tool to descale the design and implementation of the WFD at five scales: multinational, national, subnational, river basin and sub-river basin; we then rescale them in order to observe the overall impact. We find that in the Danube River Basin an interconnected web of scale issues is impacting and often obstructing effective implementation of the WFD.

KEYWORDS: Scale, multilevel governance, WFD, complexity, Danube River Basin