ICPR – International Commission for the Protection of the Rhine

Action Plan on Floods in the Rhine catchment: 55 km² of floodplains along the Rhine regained

Strasbourg, 10 July 2012

Since the last great flood of the Rhine in 1995 the countries in the Rhine catchment have invested some 10.3 billion € into improved flood protection and have thus increased the protection of people and goods. Such is the result of the balance of the implementation of the Action Plan on Floods until 2010 presented by the International Commission on the Protection of the Rhine (ICPR) in Strasbourg.

In the name of the French government, the deputy Director for Water and Biodiversity, and President of the Coordinating Committee Rhine, Mr. Alby Schmitt had invited the representatives of water management of the authorities in all countries in the Rhine catchment cooperating within the ICPR to the Hôtel du Préfet of the Alsace Region to Strasbourg.

According to the balance on the implementation of the Action Plan on Floods, and depending on the flood situation, retention areas along the Rhine downstream of Basel for up to 229 million m³ of water may be put into service to lower peak flows. 69 million m³ have been made available during the past 15 years. Due to the relocation of dikes and the deepening of river forelands in the Rhine delta, 55 km² of former floodplains along the Rhine have been regained. In addition, renaturing measures have been implemented along tributaries and smaller waters in the catchment. Along other sections of the Rhine, the security of dikes and local flood protection has been increased in order to improve the protection of goods and people. Recent investigations show that in spite of these considerable efforts and the implementation of further measures until 2020 and beyond, not all targets set in 1998 will be completely achieved. Therefore, and with a view to the Conference of Rhine Ministers to be staged in 2013, further concepts must be drafted for the prevention of flood risks.

In this connection, the President of the ICPR, Mr. André Weidenhaupt said: “Today, the information of the public on flood risk has improved and supra-regional as well as local forecasts are available within a short period of time. However, improvement of flood risk prevention must under no circumstances slacken. In particular with a view to the expected effects of climate change, all measures planned for 2020 and later must be implemented.“

Further fields of ICPR action are the improvement of the functionality of rivers and their continuity. More natural and more dynamic streams are more adaptable and may thus contribute to mitigate the consequences of climate change. Thus, increased water retention in the catchment serves both flood protection and ecology.

All measures giving more room to the river are simultaneously beneficial to biological diversity. An additional requirement is free up- and downstream fish migration. 
Therefore, during the meeting in Strasbourg, the pending construction of the new fish passage at the Rhine barrage in Strasbourg was in particular presented during a visit to the hydro power station of Electricité de France (EdF). This fish passage will be put into service in 2015. Shortly afterwards, the Rhine barrage at Gerstheim will be equipped with another fish passage. These measures are important elements of the ICPR Master Plan Migratory Fish Rhine as well as of the Management Plan 2009 for the Rhine catchment under the European Water Framework Directive. The schedule for achieving free migration as far as Basel, in coordination with measures to be implemented in the tributary catchments is one of the topics of the Conference of Rhine Ministers in 2013.

Many measures implemented since the beginning of the programme “Salmon 2000/2020” now enable more than 6,500 adult salmon to migrate from the North Sea into their home waters for spawning. After an initial recolonization of tributaries on the Lower and Middle Rhine, this today also applies to tributaries on the Upper Rhine, such as the rivers Murg, Kinzig, Alb as well as the tributaries of the R. Ill. Recently, the first returning adult salmon were even observed at the Rheinfelden barrage on the High Rhine, but also at the fish passage on the Moselle in Koblenz.

The countries in the Rhine catchment also concentrate on the problem of micro-pollutants in waters, e.g. due to medicinal products for human use or to odoriferous substances not eliminated in wastewater treatment plants. In this connection, a strategy has been decided, which is gradually being implemented.

More in depth knowledge has been presented in evaluation reports on different groups of substances (see www.iksr.org): “Medicinal products for human use“, “Biocidal products and anti-corrosive agents“, “Oestrogens“, “Radiological contrast substances“, “Odoriferous substances” and “Complexing agents” while the last report on “Industrial chemicals” will be accomplished shortly. Presently, the most efficient possible measures aimed at reducing the input of such substances due to municipal and industrial sewage are being investigated within an integral assessment of all groups of substances. This report will be published before long.

Further information

International Commission for the Protection of the Rhine (ICPR) 
Ben van de Wetering
Tel. +49-(0)261-94252-17
Mobile: +49-170-4976861


Anne Schulte-Wülwer-Leidig
Tel. +49-(0)261-94252-19
Mobile +49-171-322 65 82

Short information

As Rhine bordering countries, Switzerland, France, Germany and the Netherlands as well as Luxemburg and the European Community co-operate within the InternationalCommission for the Protection of the Rhine (ICPR) on the basis of a treaty under international law. The President (at the time being Dr. André Weidenhaupt from Luxemburg) and the different ICPR fora are supported by the international staff of the permanent secretariat in Koblenz (Germany). Furthermore, the secretariat gives support to the countries in the Rhine watershed when implementing the European Water Framework Directive (Directive 2000/60/EC) and the European Directive on the Assessment and Management of Flood Risks (Directive 2007/60/EC). To this end, cross-border co-operation was extended to Austria, Liechtenstein and the Belgian region Wallonia. The working languages of the ICPR are German, French and Dutch. For detailed information on the ICPR please browse to the ICPR website: <link http: www.iksr.org>www.iksr.org.