ICPR – International Commission for the Protection of the Rhine

Reasons for the cooperation

Before 1950

The beginnings of advanced industrialisation during the 2nd half of the 19th century and the rapid extension of industrialisation after the foundation of the German Empire in 1871 were characterised by the creation of numerous craft undertakings and factories as well as rapid industrial growth.

However, environmental awareness had not yet developed. Irrespective of eventual harm caused, the wastewater of the many factories along the Rhine and its tributaries were discharged into the river without any prior treatment. The increasing pollution of the Rhine with organic and inorganic waste gave rise to tensions between the bordering states.

Above all, due to the increasing pollution, the Dutch in their position furthest downstream felt their very existence in danger, as they use Rhine water for their drinking water supply and for irrigation in agriculture. Rhine water was also used to flush the polders in order to prevent the polder soils and waters from silting.

The first time envoys of the Dutch Government went to Paris and Berlin to attract the attention to the pollution of the Rhine with chlorides and phenols was in 1932, but in vain. In April 1946, during the first meeting of the Central Commission for Navigation on the Rhine after World War II, the Dutch again raised the issue of Rhine pollution. The Central Commission referred to the Salmon Commission. (only in German/Dutch - 1885 Salmon Treaty)

On 26 August 1948, the Salmon Commission concluded in Basel that Rhine pollution was a serious issue of concern which however went beyond the mandate of this Commission. It proposed to the representatives of the Rhine bordering countries to work towards the creation of a new commission in charge of this issue.

Switzerland which then had the presidency of the Salmon Commission exchanged diplomatic notes with the Federal German Republic, France, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. This was the basis for the first meeting of the International Commission for the Protection of the Rhine against Pollution on 11 July 1950 (only in German and French)      .