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Project part-financed by the European Union (European Regional Development Fund)

The Interreg IVB North Sea Region Programme

The authors are solely responsible for the content of this report. Material included herein does not represent the opinion of the European Community, and the European Community is not responsible for any use that might be made of it.
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The tidal Elbe - a people's perspective

6. 6. Conclusion and Action Points

In conclusion, it can be said that integrated estuary management on the tidal Elbe is faced with several challenges. However, there are also opportunities that make success a realistic option.

Because the population on the tidal Elbe is highly mobile, regional identity is rather weak, with Heimat primarily interpreted socially rather than connected to regional space. It may be possible to stimulate and cultivate a stronger connection between residents and the region. The Elbe estuary cannot be seen as a uniform region, as rural and urban parts differ in certain ways. To promote economic development within the region as a whole, all parties concerned should be equally involved in planning and management processes. Moreover, the survey discloses weaknesses in communication and knowledge. The public only has limited knowledge of the special properties of the region. Making available more information on the particular strengths of the region might foster greater connectedness and a stronger communal spirit. Authorities and the public do not seem to speak the same language. Respondents do not participate in planning and management processes because they do not feel qualified enough. Decisions made by authorities are perceived as non-transparent, short-term and interest-based. At present there is a decided lack of trust which is needed for successful cooperation.

But apart from these challenges, the survey also reveals several opportunities for successful estuary management. People living in the region feel comfortable and at home on the tidal Elbe. They are demonstrating active interest in shaping the future of their region by engaging individually and creatively in maintaining their Heimat. The high degree of involvement might encourage authorities to take the next steps: to open to the public, fill knowledge gaps, and provide stimuli for sustainable regional development in cooperation with the residents. The Elbe estuary is a cultural, ecological and economic area. Residents want their environment to remain worthwhile as a living environment; they also want to earn a living and still feel comfortable and at home. The survey reveals that the public supports sustainable development. The challenge will be to mobilize these internal forces and to shape the development process together.

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