EXAMPLES OF BEST PRACTICES: Flood protection through ‘Room for Rivers’ plan, The Netherlands

To illustrate how public participation can improve environmental decision making, the CO-SEED team gathered case studies from around the world. The case study below is part of our on-going series sharing these examples:

Effective public participation includes several meetings, structured exchange of information, and dialogue.

The plan ‘Room for Rivers’ aimed to define necessary measures to protect the Netherlands against flooding of the river Rhine. The plan included the use of a combination of traditional approaches (building new and raising existing dikes) and natural water retention measures (deepening of riverbeds, creation of retention ponds, relocation of dikes). An SEA was done in order to enable planners and decision makers to find the best possible compromise between safety, environmental benefits, and costs.

Effective public participation was enabled during both the early stage of planning, and a later stage. The first round of participation focused on the information the SEA should contain (e.g. what alternatives to examine and what impacts to assess). The second round of participation took place after the SEA and the draft plan were ready, and focused on the quality of the SEA and the proposals in the draft plan.

Each round of participation was organized as follows:

  • at 15 locations along the river full day meetings were organized that were open to everyone
  • the first part of each meeting was a so-called ‘information market’, where citizens could ask questions, get explanations, share information, etc.
  • the second part of the meeting was the formal ‘hearing session’, during which anyone could make formal comments, to be recorded and responded to in the SEA or the final decision


In addition, continuous participation took place during the plan and SEA preparation. The most affected governments, agencies, and NGOs (e.g. agriculture, environment) were continuously consulted to develop alternatives. To accomplish this, two regional ‘steering groups’ were established. As much as possible the design and selection of mitigation measures were done jointly.