Today, the Rhine river basin countries adopted the Rhine 2040 programme. The overall aim is to make the Rhine and its tributaries climate resilient and to manage them in a sustainable way. For 70 years now, the successful transboundary cooperation of the International Commission for the Protection of the Rhine (ICPR) has shown that more can be achieved in water pollution control by working together.
On Thursday, Federal Environment Minister Svenja Schulze will meet in Amsterdam with her colleagues from Austria, France, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Switzerland plus the Belgian Wallonia region and the European Commission. This year's Conference of Rhine Ministers will focus on evaluating the results of the Rhine 2020 programme for sustainable development of the Rhine, which was initiated in 2001 and influenced the work of the ICPR for many years.
The Rhine countries have managed a leap forward in the fields of water protection and nature conservation. Reconnecting 160 old watercourses of the Rhine and backwaters has created new habitats, in particular areas serving as fish nurseries. The dismantling and removal of 600 obstacles to fish migration now enable salmon and shad to return to their former spawning habitats. The flood risk has been reduced by an impressive 25 percent compared to 1995, mainly due to the construction of flood retention areas.
The ministers responsible for the Rhine will launch the new Rhine 2040 programme in Amsterdam, setting the political and substantive course for ICPR’s work in the next 20 years. The eight countries and the EU agree on a number of goals in order to manage the Rhine and its river basin in a sustainable way and to make it climate resilient. These include: interconnected habitats and increased biodiversity, good water quality, reduction of flood risk and coping with low water. These high-level goals are subdivided into targets and tasks, for example removing at least another 300 migration obstacles to restore river continuity for fish. In order to mitigate the effects of climate change, the ICPR will also review and update its adaptation strategy. In addition, the countries want to intensify their cooperation on coping with phases of extreme low water.
Federal Environment Minister Schulze said: "With this new Rhine 2040 programme, the ministers responsible for the Rhine are facing up to the impacts of climate change. The severe drought of 2018 was a clear warning sign of what we may be heading for in the coming years. The availability of water is changing in the whole Rhine river basin. Temperatures are rising. Only by acting together will we be able to overcome these challenges. I noted with great pleasure that France presented a detailed timeline for improving the situation of migratory fish in the Upper Rhine. The intensive and long discussions of the ICPR have paid off. The barrages at Rhinau, Marckolsheim and Vogelgrün are a bottleneck for migrating fish. If we do not enable migratory fish to pass them swiftly, salmon for example will only reach Basel with a considerable delay."
ICPR is one of the oldest and most successful river basin commissions, serving as a model all over the world. Established on 11 July 1950 by Germany, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Switzerland, its goal is to investigate the pollution of the Rhine, to recommend water protection measures, to harmonise monitoring and analysis methods and to exchange monitoring data.