Water does not stop at the border. What happens in one place has consequences for other places, and vice versa. It’s best for us to cooperate if we want to continue using the Rhine and keep it clean.
For example: the Rhine is used in the Netherlands for drinking water and to irrigate crops. If other countries further upstream in the catchment area do not keep the water clean, or actually pollute it, the Netherlands will receive Rhine water that is no longer fit for use. Or it will have to clean the dirty water.
In the other direction, the Netherlands has to let migrating fish entering the river from the sea carry on their journey. Otherwise these fish will not be able to reach their spawning grounds (places where fish meet to breed) in tributaries of the Rhine in Germany and France. We also want these fish to be able to swim as far as Switzerland, because they used to be very common there. But that has not yet happened. We probably still need to build a few more fish corridors in the Franco-German Upper Rhine so that the fish can pass alongside the large weirs used to generate hydroelectricity.
The Convention on the Protection of the Rhine states how important we think the Rhine is and contains agreements on protection and cooperation.
The Rhine is more than just running water. All the plants and animals, the air, soil and water, come together to form a whole. The most important agreement being developed is to make sure that this whole works properly and survives into the future.
What we are really saying is that all parts of the Rhine, however small, have to be protected so that the Rhineland is a great place to live both now and in the future.
What we mean by ‘sustainable development’ is we will be able to do everything we are currently doing with the Rhine in, say, thirty years time: taking drinking water from it, travelling along it, catching fish, living and making goods along the Rhine, or just spending free time on its banks.
This is why a lot of work is being done to reduce the amount of harmful substances that end up in the Rhine. We want to make the water quality as good as possible, and keep it good, so that we can use it to produce drinking water now and in the future. We want plants and animals to be able to survive in the Rhine in the future. And we want to be properly protected against (or at least well prepared for) flooding.
We know that we have to work together to protect the Rhine, and we are doing so. Things are improving all the time, but we can do better still. Discharge of harmful substances has to be further reduced so that we can keep the water quality good.
De samenwerking tussen de landen gaat al zo goed, dat de ICBR twee prijzen heeft gekregen. Een Europese en een wereldprijs die worden uitgereikt aan organisaties die werken aan de bescherming van rivieren.