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The Building of a Dam: Value Conflicts in Public Decision-Making

Ana Costa, José Castro Caldas, Ricardo Coelho, Maria de Fátima Ferreiro and Vasco Gonçalves

Environmental Values 25 (2016): 215-234. doi: 10.3197/096327116X14552114338909

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Public decisions concerning large projects with detrimental environmental or heritage impacts involve value conflicts which stem from the diverse interests and variety of ways of evaluating the costs and benefits of such projects. They are also framed by institutionalised procedures and practices which favour certain concerns to the detriment of others. This paper aims to contribute towards a better understanding of how these procedures and practices, namely decision support tools such as the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), tend to shape public decision-making processes in particular ways. It draws on a study of the public controversy surrounding the Foz Tua dam in Portugal, with a focus on the values upheld by the different parties in the controversy and their interplay in the production of justifications, specifically the actors’ positions on values and value conflicts and the restrictions posed by institutionalised public decision-making procedures on the expression and consideration of certain values.


Environmental Impact Assessment, value conflicts, environmental and heritage values, public decision-making

REFERENCES to other articles in Environmental Values:

Environmental Philosophy and the Public Interest: A Pragmatic Reconciliation. Ben A. Minteer

How Much is that Ecosystem in the Window? The One with the Bio-diverse Trail. Clive L. Spash

Editorial: Terrible Economics, Ecosystems and Banking. Clive L. Spash

Realms of Value: Conflicting Natural Resource Values and Incommensurability. Sarah Fleisher Trainor

CITATIONS in other Environmental Values articles

Negotiating the Value of Values. Piers H.G. Stephens

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