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Measures aimed at improving the Rhine ecosystem

With a view to improving the Rhine ecosystem, the ICPR programme on sustainable development of the Rhine, in short „Rhine 2020” demands to restore the former network of habitats typical for the Rhine (habitat patch connectivity) as well as ecological river patency of the Rhine from Lake Constance to the North Sea and the patency of Rhine tributaries included in the programme on migratory fish: The following measures are listed in the Rhine 2020-programme:

  • preserve freely flowing river sections
  • restore river dynamics
  • a more varied design of the structure of river banks and bottom
  • open old alluvial areas to the river
  • change to more extensive agriculture in the floodplain
  • remove obstacles to the migration of the river fauna
  • reconnect old river branches and torrents

To be precise, by 2020 160 km² of overbank areas along the Rhine and in the lowlands of the Rhine and 1 000 km² in the Rhine watershed are to be reactivated and 11 000 km of rivers are to be renaturated.

In the past, the many river training measures in favour of navigation, generation of hydropower and flood protection have basically modified the hydrological and morphological conditions along both the Rhine itself and almost all tributaries. Cutting off more than 85 per cent of the alluvial areas along the Upper and Lower Rhine has led to great losses of habitats and of animal and plant species typical of the Rhine.