Germany’s Rhine: No Longer a “German” River


A recent New York Times article gives us an important lesson on the damage incurred by chemical “spills,”—despite the best efforts to clean them up. In 1986, when a plant near Basle, Switzerland had a chemical spill, millions of fish for hundreds of miles downstream Germany’s Rhine river were killed, and Rhine salmon wiped out. Thanks to an initiative by Dutch minister of water resources Neelie Kroes, salmon is back. In some parts, you can actually see them leaping through the air. But this Rhine, as the article’s headline tells us, is “No Longer Europe’s Sewer, but Not the Rhine of Yore.” Now, salmon from Ireland, France, Scotland, and Scandinavia call the river home. They share this aquatic turf with immigrants including a small crab, which moved on in when the Danube was connected to the Rhine in 1992 by the Main-Danube canal. It’s frustrating to think, even with a clean-up project carrying a 20-25 billion euro price tag, we can’t quite clean up these “spills.” ::The New York Times

Image Martin Specht for The New York Times.