The groundwater pollution of Korneuburg, Austria : its issue life-cycle in the public discourse and collaboration and confrontation strategies of actors
This thesis is a case study about the groundwater contamination of Korneuburg, Austria. The company Kwizda was responsible for pesticides leaking into the groundwater. The contamination was kept quiet with the help of local authorities and would have never come to light if not for the diligent efforts of affected residents. Their collaboration with environmental activists and a journalist led to the uncovering of the incident, eventually leading to remediation measures and lawsuits. While public attention to the issue was high, the authorities approved a controversial remediation measure that would lead to further pollution. With a particular reference to environmental and social issues, this thesis sought to uncover the key events and stakeholders that contributed to the development of the issue. It investigated the issue using an issue life-cycle approach. Two research methods were applied. Firstly, online newspaper articles were examined through a quantitative media-analysis, uncovering the issue’s development as a mediatized phenomenon. Secondly, qualitative interviews with six major stakeholders of the issue were conducted, shining light on the stakeholders’ influence strategies. The incorporation of both qualitative and quantitative research led to a greater understanding of the impact of the various strategies used during the issue and their influence on the issue life-cycle. Factors that contribute to the increase of issue salience, after a period of low salience, have not yet been conceptualized in the literature. This case study strongly indicates that framing an environmental issue as a social one is crucial for creating and sustaining high salience. Two theories regarding stakeholder influence strategy selection were examined, and their applicability to this specific environmental issue was challenged. Several factors were found to be crucial for the strategy selection and the issue’s development, including: transparency and its importance for reaching justice; the role of the media and social networks in disseminating information to all stakeholders, and the key role of a whistle-blower. ...
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