You gain some funding, you lose some freedom: The ironies of flood protection in Limburg (The Netherlands)

A. Wesselink, J.F. Warner, M. Kok

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


In this paper we show how applying an analytical framing of hegemony to policy making can draw out strategic positioning and negotiation of the actors involved that would remain hidden with a more rationalistic analysis. We show how long established flood protection management from the Dutch lowlands was imported into Limburg after two major flood events (1993/1995) and we argue this case highlights how existing hegemony is easily replicated in new situations. With the shock caused by these floods came a securitising discourse that transformed the portrayal of flood risks in Limburg as ‘safety’ rather than ‘costly nuisance’. After an intense lobby by Limburg, the Meuse and its floodplains were included into the Dutch Flood Defence Law in 2005, becoming a national responsibility. While most Limburg inhabitants see increased protection against flooding as beneficial, the new law also meant strict design procedures and planning restrictions. Water expertise plays an important role in setting the new rules that determine which local ambitions are compatible with the national laws and policies. While securitisation helped to actively reproduce the existing (perception of) hegemonic relations in this case, the relationship between securitisation and hegemony is context-dependent, and both hegemon and non-hegemon can use a securitisation strategy to their advantage. Exactly how this will happen cannot be predicted, but ‘securitization’ and ‘hegemony’ are important sensitising concepts that can alert the observer to mechanisms of power re-distribution in other situations and settings.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)113-125
JournalEnvironmental Science & Policy
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • flood control
  • water management
  • decision making
  • limburg
  • climate-change
  • policy

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