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Restoration of the Lower Havel River

Restoration of the Lower Havel River

Re-introduction of river bank vegetation benefits river corridor

Untere_Havel_Logo

Funding by the Federal government and the Länder Brandenburg and Saxony-Anhalt will enable NABU to carry out a restoration program to return the local ecology to the Lower Havel River in the next 13 years. The Lower Havel River catchment is the largest and most important inland wetland in Central Europe. It suffered severe damage to its environment due to river regulation during the 20th century. The problems have been enhanced during the past 15 years with ground-water levels declining in the catchment area. As a result numerous species of high conservation value are, in the meantime, seriously threatened with extinction.

NABU is going to change that. We are going to return life to the Havel River and make it a vital habitat for native plants and animals in floodplains. Plans include re-connecting backwater areas, removing manmade structures used to channel the riverbank (boulders, rocks, concrete), minimizing dredging, reactivating former river beds and installing fish ladders or bypasses. Not only nature benefits from the project, when restoration has been completed, the catchment area will function as a natural form of water protection and this in turn will serve to improve the quality of our water. And beyond that the project will act as an economic stimulus for the entire region and promote its development.

Havel Luftaufnahme

The Havel River will still serve as a waterway for passenger ships and pleasure boats and the terminals at Rathenow and Havelberg will still be connected to the water transport network. Once the River Havel has been restored, it will be an attractive location for residents as well as visitors.

The local NABU project office is working closely with federal government and Länder agencies as well as county bureaus. The restoration of the Lower Havel is the largest project of its kind in Europe. Its objective is to serve as a model for a new approach to rivers and their floodplains, one that respects plant and animal communities as well as their native ecology. These initiatives harmonize with the EU Water Framework Directive.

Birgit Fischer, winner of eight Olympic gold medals in the canoe-kayak sprint, is the project‘s prominent ambassador.

Beginning and Duration of Project
The project officially commenced on October 21, 2005 when Brandenburg on behalf of the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation announced that the application had been approved and that funds had been granted.

The project will run for a term of 13 years. The first phase (2005-2008) was set aside for a management and development plan. Actual work started in 2009 and will continue until 2018.

Havel-Projektgebiet

Location and Size of the Project Area
The entire area covered in the project amounts to approx. 18,700 hectares. The Havel river is a tributary of the Elbe River and the project area is located at its mouth where it flows into the Elbe River. It is about 70 kilometers northwest of Berlin and is divided between the Länder Brandenburg and Saxony-Anhalt with 11,000 hectares in Brandenburg and 7,600 in Saxony-Anhalt.

The core area comprises 8,900 hectares. In this core area measures will be carried out to support naturally occurring physical changes in width and depth of the river channel and river bed along with the flow of sediment as well as creating a system of balance between water level and the drainage network. The core area covers the entire polder and dike system of the Havel. 4,500 hectares are located in Brandenburg, 4,400 hectares in Saxony-Anhalt.

Planning in Phase I
The first step involved public participation and consultations with all other parties affected by the project. Using the comments gathered and information gained the NABU project office then drew up a management and development plan. The necessary steps included contracting external experts, collaborating with competent technical authorities and reviewing interim reports, organizing the purchase of property, reaching consent with all parties, communicating objectives of the project to the public via the media, raising awareness and, finally, ensuring that acceptance of the project is reached.

Work Program in Phase II
The management and development plan includes all of the agreed measures and tasks to be carried out in Phase II. The work program involves removing manmade structures used to channel the riverbank (boulders, rocks, concrete), minimizing dredging, reactivating former river beds and installing fish ladders or bypasses.

Costs and Funding
The total costs of the project are estimated at 25 million Euros. Government funding provides a total of 1.75 million Euros for Phase I. The Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN) covers 75%, Brandenburg 11% whereas Saxony-Anhalt and NABU each cover 7% of the costs.

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