River imaginaries and climate change adaptation

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractAcademic


Worldwide, rivers face challenges due to human and climatic pressures. Floods, droughts, pollution, damming and hydropeaking are only a few examples of these pressures, and influence the way rivers flow. Climate change adaptation projects increase the incentive to domesticate rivers, often legitimised through expert views on (future) vulnerability and risk. This emerging river imaginary dominates current debates in many rivers in our world. River imaginaries reflect spatially bound hydrosocial territories in which multiple actors on multiple scales from multiples sectors operate to reach varying objectives. They include water flows, ecological systems, climate conditions, hydraulic infrastructure, financial means, institutional arrangements, legal frameworks and information/knowledge hubs. In the context of climate change adaptation, river imaginaries are strongly dependent on the extent to which climate change is expected to influence rivers through a mixture of probable, possible, desirable or preferable versions of a (future) river. As such, knowledge-structures of future making are scrutinised in this research by emphasising on the role of change, the role of futures and the role of experts. This presentation aims to elucidate how river imaginaries have influenced river management under climate change adaptation that resulted in large infrastructural projects. Through a study of the Meuse river, a concrete case of a imaginary came into being in the Dutch-Belgian Border-Meuse trajectory. Moreover, preliminary result from adaptation projects in the marshlands of the lower Magdalena in Colombia strengthen the dominate imaginary of technocratic and ecocentric approaches to climate change adaptation where an expert view on local knowledge dominates.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2023
EventPOLLEN2023: Political Ecology Network Biennial Conferences - Durban, South Africa
Duration: 28 Jun 202330 Jun 2023


Abbreviated titlePOLLEN
Country/TerritorySouth Africa
Internet address


  • imaginaries
  • rivers
  • adaptation
  • power
  • future


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