For most of us, the last 15 months have been associated with radical changes in our everyday lives. Home schooling and home office, video calls instead of family visits... the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed both weaknesses and opportunities within our societies. Despite the many restrictions, modern communication channels have helped us to keep in touch. We humans are social beings. Many of us have realised how important communication is to us!
For international river protection commissions such as the Danube and Rhine commissions, not to mention all associated national and NGO experts, the pandemic massively interfered with day-to-day activities. Our entire working structures were built around physical meetings. From one day to the other, travelling to international meetings became impossible; the interpreters booths were suddenly empty. When we realised the pandemic was going to last more than a few months, we soon established new ways of communication. Although we’re looking forward to the time when we’ll be able to meet again, videoconferences have become a daily routine – some of them with online simultaneous interpretation!
The pandemic, which stems from a zoonosis, but also severe weather events like the 2018 drought in Central Europe or the 2014 floods in south-east Europe, often seen as heralds of climate change, make us reflect on the way we treat nature. “Blue” natural resources such as rivers, lakes and wetlands are especially sensitive. The countries in the Danube and Rhine River basins are making continuous efforts to improve the ecological situation. River continuity, elimination of sources of pollution and flood prevention are some of the most prominent issues we’re concerned with.
Despite the difficult conditions, both my own commission – the International Commission for the Protection of the Rhine (ICPR/IKSR) – and the ICPDR, have published their draft International River Basin Management Plans and Flood Risk Management Plans on www.icpdr.org and www.iksr.org. Now, dear readers, it’s your turn to have your say and you’re invited to do so in your mother tongue! Both instruments, which describe the current ecological situation and the measures for further improvement, are available for online consultation in 11 languages in the case of the Danube and 3 languages in the case of the Rhine. As citizens of our basins and local experts on our rivers, your feedback is much appreciated!
To reiterate my initial statement: communication is vital, and we at the ICPR, have identified it as a top priority. We believe in the importance of reaching out to the general public via new communication channels. The ICPDR with its activities on social media has been a role model for us. I am, therefore, proud to share that the Rhine Commission has opened a new Twitter account (@ICPRhine). I think I can speak for both commissions when I say: Follow us on social media, stay in touch with us, comment on the results of our work! We’re looking forward to it!