If only every river could have an International Commission overseeing its wellbeing! Located in an impressive building on the west bank of the Rhine in Koblenz, the International Commission for the Protection of the Rhine aims to “attract attention to the protection of waters and resources, the required ecological network for migratory fish, intact migration routes between the Rhine and the North Sea/Atlantic necessary for their life cycle as well as the importance of alluvial areas for floods and low waters. The ICPR equally provides information material for visitors’ centres at fish passages or in nature protection areas and offers to support their networking.”
After an informative two hour discussion and presentation by Dr. Laura Gangi, I wished that I’d started my trip with a visit to Koblenz, so that I’d be cycling with a better understanding of:
- Restoration objectives
- Current projects
- Visitor education centers
- Catchment area and tributaries
The ICPR bases its work on the European Water Framework Directive, adopted by the EU in 2000 for the protection of water quality and the European Directive on the Assessment and Management of Flood Risks.I’ve seen evidence of these international agreements throughout my trip as gravel bars and braided stream restoration in the High Rhine; fisherman’s comments in the Bodensee about the water being “too clean”; the installation of rocky groins to slow water velocity and create wildlife habitat (and swimming spots) and bikeway detours as backhoes convert agricultural fields to flood plains in the Middle Rhine.
Another relevant document ICPR maintains is the Masterplan for Migratory Fish including maps on barriers equipped with upstream passage, and those with, or in need of, downstream passage. Dr. Gangi & her colleagues deserve praise for all that ICPR has accomplished by coordinating local restoration efforts in three languages across the six countries of the Rhine watershed.
A new working group was created last year to study effects of climate change, particularly the current challenges of low water in the Rhine catchment. Since the ongoing plan called “Rhine 2020” ends in 3 years, the ICPR has started work on “Rhine 2040″.