ICPR – International Commission for the Protection of the Rhine

Increasing confidence

1972 - 1986

A severe chemical accident in June 1969 causing great fish mortality as far downstream as the Netherlands, which was caused by a wave of thiodan (endosulfan) from the R. Main and several accidents and incidents within short time raised public awareness for the considerable pollution of the Rhine. Additionally, the pollution of the Rhine with salt was a much discussed problem of concern.
The increasing public awareness for environmental issues put the industry and the governments under pressure and gave new political weight to water protection.

Legal basis
In 1972, the Ministers in charge of environmental protection in the Rhine catchment met for their 1st Conference of Rhine Ministers (only in German and French). In the course of their next meeting in 1973 in Bonn (communiqué 2nd Conference of Rhine Ministers  - only in German and French) they charged the ICPR to draft a Chemical Convention and a Chlorides Convention.
Both Conventions were signed on 2 December 1976 in Bonn together with an additional protocol to the Berne Convention of 1963 which confirmed the European Economic Community becoming a contracting party to the ICPR.

First success
The confidence of the states and of the public increased, when the Ministers in charge published the restoration measures to be implemented in the different states.
This confidence paid in 1977, when the ICPR could, for the first time in its history announce that water quality had improved - thanks to the first restoration measures taken. The oxygen content rose and organic pollution as well as the phenol pollution was reduced.
At an early stage, the ICPR recommended its member states to include a third treatment stage (elimination of phosphates) when planning new wastewater treatment plants. Furthermore, in order to reduce the thermal pollution of the Rhine, future power plants would be equipped with cooling towers - these issues are still relevant today.
Until 1986, Rhine water quality steadily improved, in particular with respect to heavy metals, even though, within the Chemical Convention emission standards had only been adopted for 12 substances.

1976  The European Economic Community signs an additional protocol to the Berne Convention and becomes party to this convention. (only in German, French and Dutch)

1976  Signing of the Convention on the Protection of the Rhine against Chemical Pollution (only in German, French and Dutch)

1976 Signing of the Convention on the Protection of the Rhine against Chloride Pollution (Chlorides Convention), a supplementary agreement to which was signed in 1991. (only in German, French and Dutch)