From: fred pearce, Yale Environment360
Published December 16, 2013 08:12 AM

Good news for European rivers

From Britain to the Czech Republic, European nations have been restoring rivers to their natural state — taking down dams, removing levees, and reviving floodplains. For a continent that long viewed rivers as little more than shipping canals and sewers, it is a striking change.

From the industrial cities of Britain to the forests of Sweden, from the plains of Spain to the shores of the Black Sea, Europe is restoring its rivers to their natural glory. The most densely populated continent on earth is finding space for nature to return along its river banks. 

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The restoration is not perfect. River floodplains cannot be fully restored when they contain cities, and hydroelectric dams are still needed. But Danube River in Germany
Europe's fluvial highways are becoming the test bed for conservation biologist Edward O. Wilson's dream that the 21st century should be "the era of restoration in ecology."

The political imperative is strong, with the 2000 European Union's Water Framework Directive requiring that all rivers be returned to a "good status" by 2015. The phrase is not defined, but the idea is that rivers should no longer be used as industrial sewers or as canalized and concreted shipping lanes. The change has been dramatic. While water engineers in Europe have been cleansing rivers of pollution for half a century, they now are trying to restore them to something like their natural state.

Ice on the Danube River via Shutterstock.

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