The International Commission for the Protection of the Rhine (ICPR) received the award Thiess International Riverprize 2014 for bringing Europe’s River Rhine back to life following a devastating chemical accident in 1986, which wiped out nearly all riverine life. Prior to the accident, industrialisation and burgeoning populations had already caused major degradation to the river and as early as the 1960s, the Rhine, which flows through six countries, was notoriously known as the “sewer of Europe”.
Mr Gustaaf Borchardt, President of the ICPR, said "we are most pleased to have been awarded the Thiess International Riverprize in the name of all those cooperating in the ICPR. This prize is an incentive to start working on future challenges, such as the effects of climate change, micro-pollutants and the further improvement of fish migration in the Rhine catchment.”
The River Rhine was awarded the IRF European Riverprize in 2013, and therefore automatically qualified as a finalist in the Thiess International Riverprize this year. The Rhine trumped the Glenelg River (Australia), the San Antonio River (USA) and the Petitcodiac River (Canada) to take home the top award.
The restoration of the Rhine has taken the best part of a century, and involved extensive transboundary river management and cooperation. Now, almost all of the 58 million inhabitants of the Rhine catchment are connected to urban wastewater treatment plants, water quality has improved considerably and inventories show that fish species composition in the Rhine is almost back to what is was before the chemical spill.
Mr Borchardt and Dr Anne Schulte-Wülwer-Leidig, Deputy Head of Secretariat at the ICPR, are spending the week in Canberra at the 17th International Riversymposium, where they have presented a case study on the River Rhine to an audience of over 400 river experts from 28 countries around the world. The ICPR have also commenced knowledge exchange activities as part of their 2013 European Riverprize win.
The International RiverFoundation awards the prestigious Thiess International Riverprize annually, giving recognition, reward and support to those who have developed and implemented outstanding, visionary and sustainable programs in river management. The ICPDR won this award for its work on the Danube River Basin in 2007 and helped launch the European Riverprize last year.