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September 2001 - Nr. 9


The Editor
Antje berichtet
German Day
Klaus Hofer reports
Views & Reviews
Down On The Town
Brief aus Kanada
Steuben Parade
Sascha Lutz reports
Film Fest Preview
Crown's Party
Crown's Anniversary
Dick reports...
Sybille reports
Ham Se det jehört?
Dietrich's 100th
Restore Rhine

New Initiative to Restore Rhine Ecosystems

  TWIG - The environment ministers of Germany and four of its neighbours have launched a new program to restore the ecological function of the Rhine. The initiative "Rhine 2020" will aim to revive former flood plains and protect valuable ecosystems over the next twenty years. The cost of the program is expected to reach 12 million euro." It’s mainly about the protection of the population downriver," says Jean Wencker of the French conservation organization Alsace Nature. An observer for the International Commission for the Protection of the Rhine (IKSR), formed by Germany, Switzerland, France, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, Wencker says the floods of 1993 and 1995 were catastrophic for the Netherlands. The flooding can be traced to the straightening of the upper Rhine, he said, which improves shipping conditions but also allows rising waters to flow downstream more rapidly.

One goal of the new program is to lower the peak water levels in the straightened riverbed below Baden-Baden by 70 centimetres. The plan also includes measures for protecting groundwater, improving the Rhine’s water quality and restoring the ecosystems that once flanked the river. Wencker says the plan to reduce flooding can only succeed if the Rhine valley’s wetlands are rejuvenated. The vegetation would help curb flooding and serve as a natural filter and purifier, he explained.

The German environmental organization NABU has praised Rhine 2020 but says it runs the risk of being whittled down. "The proposal that was approved on Monday gave up quite a bit in the way of substance, enforceability and political meaning," remarked NABU spokesman Klaus Markgraf-Maue. What is still needed is a concrete strategy for reconciling the revival of the Rhine’s ecology with its use as a transportation route. In the past few months, he added, the last free-flowing stretches of the upper Rhine have lost their protected status. That decision would have to be reversed for progress to be made.


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