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Social-Ecological Systems Meta-Analysis Database: Case

SummaryThis is a case of relative success of fresh water pollution. At the beginning of the 1960s, water quality in the Rhine watershed had reached its poorest state. The lower portions of the river contained high concentrations of pollutants such as lead, mercury, cadmium and zinc, while a number of fish species like salmon had been completely eliminated from the watershed, and the aquatic ecosystem was virtually dead. Until that time, international cooperation on the river had been limited to the regulation of shipping and salmon fishing, and more localized agreements concerning Lake Constance, and tributaries such as the Saar and Moselle. This changed with the creation of the International Commission for the Protection of the Rhine (ICPR) in the 1960s and a series of pollution management agreements in the 1970s and 1980s. Most of the states that cooperated to create the ICPR belonged to the European Economic Community, which had been founded only in 1951. Since then, pollution regulations issued by the ICPR and the European Union developed in parallel. By the mid-1990s, emissions of two thirds of critical chemicals had been reduced by 50%, water quality parameters had improved notably, and salmon and other fish stocks were on their way to recovery. The success of the Rhine case is not absolute. Environmental outcomes have improved only over time and the governance system seems to have been more effective with regard to point-source than to non-point-source pollutants and polluters.
Statuspublic
TeamICPR (Rhine) Team
Start Date2014-06-11 10:49:40 -0400
Coding Complete?No
SectorFresh Water Pollution
ProjectSESMAD
Data Source(s)Primary data, Secondary data
CountryFrance, Germany, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Switzerland
External BiophysicalSandoz disaster: chemical spill in Basel (Switzerland) in 1986
External Social
SnapshotsTwo snapshots. One snapshot goes from 1976 to 1986 and corresponds to the approval and initial implementation of the Chemicals Convention. The second snapshot goes from 1986 to 2000 and corresponds to the adoption and implementation of the first edition of the RAP.
Timeline1950: Representatives of the Netherlands bring concern about pollution by Chlorides to the Salmon Commission. 1963: Signature of the Berne Convention and development of integrated monitoring system under new ICPR Secretariat. 1970: First Rhine Ministers Conference: negotiations to cope collectively with chlorides emissions from French potassium mines 1970s: Environmental foundation Reinwater and a number of Dutch market gardeners sue French potassium mines. 1976: Convention on the Protection of the Rhine against Pollution by Chlorides & Convention for the Protection of the Rhine against Chemical Pollution (Bonn agreements) 1986: Sandoz disaster 1987: Rhine Action Plan (RAP) approved 1990: Rotterdam agreements: between city of Rotterdam and upstream chemical firms in upstream countries, under private law
Modeling IssuesThe drinking water users were left out of the model to facilitate comprehension; however that user group played a relatively important role to understand the evolution of the case.
Surveys
Theories

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Attached Components

Actors

Name:
ICPR nations (1976-1986)
details
Past collaboration:
Medium (2)
A Salmon Commission had been created to control fishing efforts; there was also the precedent of navigation agreements; collaboration was not high, however, as the relatively failure of the Salmon commission shows; this can be related also to the relatively recent II world war.
Costs of exit:
Yes
There was high public awareness of the pollution problem in the Rhine
Proportionality (of costs and benefits):
Yes
The costs of participating in the ICPR were relatively low; countries did not engage in pollution abatement costs of pollution as part of the ICPR governance system (although they expectedly did it as part of their own and European national regulations.
Interest heterogeneity:
High (3)
There is a clear distinction between upstream polluters (France and Germany) and downstream users (mostly The Netherlands)
Leadership:
Informal leader
The Netherlands promoted the inception of the ICPR, and the approval of the Chemical Convention.
Leadership authority:
Low (1)
Sovereignty of the countries clashed with the intention of The Neetherlands to push for a stricter Chemicals Convention and its implementation.
Actor group trust:
Medium (2)
There was enough trust to sign the Chemicals Convention but not enough to implement it; lack of confidence among countries in that regard manifested in a too procedural approach to pollution control (black and grey lists of pollutants and their concentration thresholds).
Personal communication:
Less than once every 2 years (2)
This answer applies strictly to the ICPR formal meetings; however, representatives communicate more than once per year in the European Union-related venues
Remote communication:
 
Leadership accountability:
Medium (2)
Leadership is informal and thus there are not institutional mechanisms to make The Netherlands accountable; however, there are mechanisms of transparency and judicial procedures hosted by the European Union.
Actor group coordination:
Formal
Membership in ICPR
Name:
Rhine chemical firms
details
Past collaboration:
Medium (2)
Collaboration at the European level was not fully developed . (see also "coordination" variable)
Costs of exit:
Yes
Pharmaceutical or steel industries require very high capital investments
Proportionality (of costs and benefits):
Yes
The industry enjoyed good economic juncture; also there were prospects to export the new developed technologies to other countries.
Interest heterogeneity:
Low (1)
Chemical corporations all emit heavy metals as part of their basic production processes.
Leadership:
 
Leadership authority:
 
Actor group trust:
 
Personal communication:
 
Remote communication:
 
Leadership accountability:
 
Actor group coordination:
Formal
This is particularly evident in Germany (with France the main polluting country), which hosts both a German Association of the Chemical Industry (VCI) and the Abwassertechnische Vereinigung (the professional association of German wastewater specialists). At the European level, there is the CEFIC, which is the forum and voice of the European chemical industry. It represents about 40 000 large, medium and small chemical companies in Europe. It is made up of various national chemical industry federations as well as a number of large international companies.
Name:
Rhine agricultural sector
details
Past collaboration:
High (3)
The agricultural lobby at the European level is generally well known for its cohesiveness and effectiveness .
Costs of exit:
Yes
Many farmers and farming corporations make important capital investments that need to be recovered.
Proportionality (of costs and benefits):
No
There is no apparent benefit for farmers to abate pollution; rather costs
Interest heterogeneity:
Low (1)
The relatively high dependence on fertilizer and pesticides is homogeneous across agricultural activities
Leadership:
 
Leadership authority:
 
Actor group trust:
 
Personal communication:
 
Remote communication:
 
Leadership accountability:
 
Actor group coordination:
Both formal and informal
The agricultural sector in Europe is very well organized, in the form of both unions and cooperatives; however this organization is for purposes other than pollution abatement

Governance Systems

Name:
Rhine Chemicals Convention
details
Type of formal governance:
Treaty
End Date:
1986
The Convention was not revoked but has been superseded by subsequent agreements, starting by the Rhine Action Plan in 1986
Begin date:
1976
It was adopted by ICPR members in 1976 but actually only minimally implemented
Governance trigger:
slow continuous change
A previous agreement, the Berne agreements and the creation of the ICPR had been triggered by a natural disaster (chemical spill) in the 1960s.
Governance system description:
In 1976 a series of deals were reached resulting in the Convention on the Protection of the Rhine against Pollution by Chlorides (Chlorides Convention) and the Convention for the Protection of the Rhine against Chemical Pollution (Chemical Convention). The lengthy procedure to decide which chemicals to regulate slowed down the implementation process of the Chemical Convention. Ratification of the Chlorides Convention took even longer. The convention set the path for the creation of a list of black and grey toxic substances that would need to be controlled by riparian nations. It also set minimal sanctioning and litigation formal procedures.
Governance scale:
International Regime
Centralization:
Somewhat centralized (3)
The ICPR Secretariat concentrates all administrative and operational decision making power; the ICPR Secretariat is however accountable and regularly steered by ICPR members
Name:
Rhine Action Plan
details
Type of formal governance:
Management plan
The overall goal of the program is to improve water quality by meeting the following objectives, by the year 2000 (Van den Brink et al. 1994; Van Dijk et al. 1995): 1) To create conditions that can support the return of higher trophic level species such as Salmon salar; 2) To protect the Rhine River as a source for drinking water; 3) To decrease the contamination of sediments, suspended matter, and the biota due to toxic compounds; 4) To meet water quality standards mandated in the North Sea Action Plan; 5) To follow the ‘Ecological Master Plan for the Rhine River’. This plan dictates two major ecosystem based goals: a) To restore the mainstream and its main tributaries, as habitats for migratory fish; and b) To improve and protect ecologically important areas of the Rhine River and the Rhine valley with an emphasis on increasing the biodiversity of indigenous flora and fauna. The initial years of the Rhine Action Program focused exclusively on water quality improvement. The Rhine states agreed on a target reduction of 50% of the pollution caused by priority compounds by the year 1995. In addition water quality targets were set for about 50 priority compounds based on the requirements for drinking water supply, the protection of aquatic life forms, and on human tolerance levels for fish consumption (Schulte, 1992). Rehabilitation efforts involved sewage and water treatment plants, decrease in point source discharges, reinforcing shorelines with large stones and planting of riparian vegetation, and use of seasonal chemical and biological concentration techniques to monitor water quality.
End Date:
2000
The first edition of the Plan was for 4 years. The Plan has been successively re-edited.
Begin date:
1987
Governance trigger:
Sudden disturbance
On November 1, 1986, a heavy pollution wave now called the Sandoz Accident occurred in the course of putting out a warehouse fire in Basle, Switzerland. The warehouse contained 30,000 kg of toxic chemicals including insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides. This discharge of organophosphorous and organochlorine compounds had a high selective mortality effect on the eel Anguilla anguilla population (a fish formerly considered less sensitive to pollution). This incident was also extremely detrimental to other fish populations, macro-invertebrates, and plankton communities. In response to the Sandoz accident, the ICPR developed the Rhine Action Program.
Governance system description:
 
Governance scale:
International Regime
Centralization:
Somewhat centralized (3)
The ICPR Secretariat concentrates all administrative and operational decision making power; the ICPR Secretariat is however accountable and regularly steered by ICPR members

Environmental Commons

Name:
Rhine Non-point source pollutants
details
Commons unit size:
Microscopic (1)
Commons mobility:
High (3)
Although moderated by the existence of dams along the Rhine's course, water and thus the pollutants' mobility is high compared to human standards
Toxicity:
High (3)
Too much nitrogen and phosphorus in the water causes algae to grow faster than ecosystems can handle. Significant increases in algae harm water quality, food resources and habitats, and decrease the oxygen that fish and other aquatic life need to survive. Large growths of algae are called algal blooms and they can severely reduce or eliminate oxygen in the water, leading to illnesses in fish and the death of large numbers of fish. Some algal blooms are harmful to humans because they produce elevated toxins and bacterial growth that can make people sick if they come into contact with polluted water, consume tainted fish or shellfish, or drink contaminated water. Nutrient pollution in ground water - which millions of people in the United States use as their drinking water source - can be harmful, even at low levels. Infants are vulnerable to a nitrogen-based compound called nitrates in drinking water.
Point/Nonpoint:
Nonpoint source
Residence Time:
Multiple years (3)
This applies not only to water but also to the sediments of the Rhine riparian area
Commons spatial extent:
170000
Size of the catchment area of the Rhine
Environmental medium:
Freshwater
Rhine's waters
Commons heterogeneity:
Low (1)
The continuity of the Rhine's watercourse is not significantly or permanently fragmented by dams.
Intra annual predictability:
Moderate (2)
Pollution by the agricultural sector (main source of diffuse pollution) can be moderately predicted in the mid-term by the economic activity of the sector and the nation in general.
Inter annual predictability:
Moderate (2)
Pollution by the agricultural sector (main source of diffuse pollution) can be moderately predicted in the mid-term by the economic activity of the sector and the nation in general.
Technical substitute:
No
There is manure as a substitute of fertilizers but it is potentially as polluting as chemical fertilizers. There are also agricultural practices that can substitute for the need to apply pesticides but only partially
Commons boundaries:
Clear boundaries (3)
Important portions of the river have been channeled and its water course is generally well defined
Commons renewability:
Renewable (1)
The pollutants are natural chemical elements, which are potentially renewable
Commons accessibility:
Very accessible (3)
The Rhine river is very accessible and thus also the heavy metals
Name:
Rhine Point source pollutants
details
Commons unit size:
Microscopic (1)
Commons mobility:
High (3)
Although moderated by the existence of dams along the Rhine's course, water and thus the pollutants' mobility is high compared to human standards
Toxicity:
Moderate (2)
Some heavy metals like Cadmium are very toxic while other like Zink are not.
Point/Nonpoint:
Point source
Heavy metals generated by chemical industry
Residence Time:
Multiple years (3)
This applies not only to water but also to the sediments of the Rhine riparian area
Commons spatial extent:
170000
Size of the catchment area of the Rhine
Environmental medium:
Freshwater
Rhine's waters
Commons heterogeneity:
Low (1)
The continuity of the Rhine's watercourse is not significantly or permanently fragmented by dams.
Intra annual predictability:
Moderate (2)
Pollution by the chemical industry can be moderately predicted in the mid-term by the economic activity of the industry and the nation in general.
Inter annual predictability:
Moderate (2)
Pollution by the chemical industry can be moderately predicted in the mid-term by the economic activity of the industry and the nation in general.
Technical substitute:
Yes
Electrolitic processes in metal refineries were introduced in the 1960s to replace old thermal smelters. The chemical industry has shown more generally that new technologies can be used to reduce emissions of heavy metals.
Commons boundaries:
Clear boundaries (3)
Important portions of the river have been channeled and its water course is generally well defined
Commons renewability:
Renewable (1)
The pollutants are natural metals, which are potentially renewable
Commons accessibility:
Very accessible (3)
The Rhine river is very accessible and thus also the heavy metals

Component Interactions

Governance Interaction

Chemical Convention

Governs:
Rhine Chemicals Convention (Governance System)
Primary:
Rhine Point source pollutants (Environmental Common)
Commons User:
ICPR nations (1976-1986) (Actor)
Commons User:
Rhine chemical firms (Actor)

Biophysical Interaction

Heavy Metals affect negatively the habitability of the Rhine's ecosystem, represented by salmon stocks

1850-01-01 - ongoing
Coded:

Interaction is not complete.

Pollutes:
Rhine Non-point source pollutants (Environmental Common)