Water is one of the biggest global challenges and the future of our Cities is closely connected with it.  Chennai, one of India’s largest metropolitan areas, is fraught with challenges of flooding, polluted rivers, scarcity of fresh water even though it is located on the coast, has three Rivers, abundance of Lakes, Canals, Wetlands and Reservoirs.  Recognizing this issue, Goethe Institute, Chennai conceived a long-term project – Embrace the River – whose main objective is to create a path towards a more sustainable future for water and the city.  RCME is a partner in this project.  The Visitor programme is one of such initiative planned for 2016-2017.  A team of Architects, Urban planners, Artists, Lawyers, Citizen groups, Social activists and Academics was selected to visit projects in Germany and Netherlands connected with river restoration, urban floodwater and waste water management.

ger1The first project was located in Nijmegen, Netherlands and named “Room for the River Waal”.  The River Waal, tributary of the River Rhine, was subject to extensive flooding, which the dykes could not contain. The project involved creating a parallel canal, dyke relocation and lowering of the flood plains. The success of this project was due to an integrated approach of urban design, connectivity between the Towns on either side of the river, financial compensation for the relocated residents, Citizen Participation and awareness programmes.

The second project was connected with the River Emscher, which is in the Ruhr Industrial area. Ever since 1900, industrial untreated effluents, sewage and waste water was dumped into the River. The Emscher Genossenschaft, an organization of “River Managers”, undertook an ambitious project to re-naturalize the river by creating a parallel network of buried Waste water pipes, Sewage Treatment Plants and Storm Water retention basins.  A series of Art intervention, restored urban parks and involvement of Citizen groups have contributed to the aesthetic and utilitarian improvement of the area.

ger2ger3ger4Hamburg, on the banks of the river Elbe is one of the largest cities in Germany and dates back to the 8th Century.  The city faced many problems such as tidal inflow of upto 5 Mtrs, loss of biodiversity and pollution due to Industrial and waste disposal into the river.  Efforts are now on to create a Green and Sustainable city, River front development – Hafen City, restoring upstream river banks and oxbows, creating tidal habitats leading eventually to flood control, a cleaner River and the resurgence of endemic species.  The WASSER FORUM, Association of Ecological Planning and RISA are organizations contributing to this cause.

ger6The last leg of the programme was in the city of Munich, where there have been numerous Art and landscape interventions along the river ISA that flows through the city.

ger7Rtn. C.S.Raghuram.
Date: August 1, 2016.