Rijkswaterstaat leads international project ‘The Rhine Connects’
On 12 October 2023, Rijkswaterstaat, as lead partner, took an important step to strengthen its reputation as an innovator and leader in international cooperation by launching a project called The Rhine Connects. This initiative brings together 10 German and Dutch organisations with an ambitious goal: to rejuvenate the Rhine and transform it into a greener, healthier and more vibrant waterway.
Working across borders to rejuvenate the Rhine
The scope of the project is vast. Key initiatives include reducing plastic pollution, facilitating the return of migratory fish, cultivating river forests and creating ecological links. The project also has an educational component, with plans to organise exhibitions focusing on the Rhine.
The core ethos is cooperation, not just between institutions, but across national borders. As the Rhine knows no boundaries, the project emphasises the importance of integrated efforts for effective nature conservation.
Marjolein van de Zandschulp, chief engineer-director of Rijkswaterstaat Eastern Netherlands, spoke passionately about the importance of the project at its launch in Rees, Germany. Having observed the challenges facing the Rhine, she highlighted the pressing issue of pollution, particularly plastic, which is affecting the river's health. ‘You can see that things are improving there,’ she said, ‘but at the same time, I’m concerned about how vulnerable this area is.’
Embracing differences: The power of international collaboration
Working together also encourages mutual learning. Differences in working cultures, such as the more relaxed Dutch approach compared with the more direct German style, are viewed positively. Both partners believe that these differences enhance cooperation and lead to a richer project experience.
The Rhine Connects project has received financial support from the EU Interreg VI-a programme Germany-The Netherlands, the Province of Gelderland and the Ministry for Economic Affairs, Industry, Climate Action and Energy of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia. It will run from 2023-2026 and aims to build on the foundations laid by the Green Blue Rhine Alliance.
As Rijkswaterstaat continues to consolidate its position as a global leader, initiatives such as The Rhine Connects demonstrate its commitment to international cooperation and environmental sustainability. The project promises a better future for the Rhine and all those who depend on it.