A Research Companion to Water Transitions around the Globe
Edited by Dave Huitema and Sander Meijerink
Chapter 18: Germany: Transitions in Flood Management in the Rhine Basin
Gert Becker 18.1 Introduction The River Rhine is the third-largest river (1320 km) in Europe and the region’s busiest and economically most important international waterway. Its basin features major industrial and urban development (Overeem, 2005; Koordinierungskomitee Rhein, 2005). The Rhine offers a particularly interesting set of cases for examination of the transition in German flood management, since they incorporate several important aspects, including: renewed flood safety issues caused by continuous human intervention; a high degree of institutional complexity in the basin;1 accompanying socio-ecological aspects; and the concurrent beginning of new environmental and democratic discourses in the 1960s and 1970s (Blatter, 1994; Tittizer and Krebs, 1996; Dieperink, 1997, 2000; Cioc, 2002; Frijters and Leentvaar, 2003; Dombrowsky and Holländer, 2004; Becker et al., 2007; Nienhuis, 2008; Mostert, 2009). One hundred and fifty years of human intervention to adapt the water and river systems of the Upper Rhine to different user functions had serious, even critical consequences for the ecological and hydro-morphological resilience of the river system. The loss of 75 per cent of floodplains between 1817 and 1928 and, particularly, of another 130 km2 (13 per cent) between 1957 and 1970 significantly increased flood risk2 and the potential for related damage3 downstream (Hochwasserschutzkonzept Köln, 1996). In 1968 the International Commission for Research on Floods of the River Rhine (HSK)4 was established to investigate the history and background of flooding of the Upper Rhine. Based on the final report of the commission in 1978 and the recommendation to provide...
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