the Rhine River is the largest river in Western Europe. It flows through 9 European countries such as Switzerland, Germany, France, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. It is the drinking water source for nearly 20 million people in several countries along the way. It is the best managed River in the world and the most successful river in dealing with the relationship between people and rivers in the world. However, the Rhine River is not always so good. It was once known as “European sewer” and “European public toilet”.

since the late 19th century, with the increase of population and the development of industry in the basin, the water quality of the Rhine River is declining day by day. By the 1920s, fishermen in the lower reaches of the Rhine River continued to complain that the taste of fish was getting worse and worse because the wastewater discharged from Ruhr Industrial Zone in Germany contained a large amount of phenol. In the middle of the 20th century, the pollution of the Rhine River was still increasing. After the war, Europe was full of waste, and in the large-scale post-war reconstruction, the Rhine River basin gradually developed into the main economic lifeline of Europe. Several industrial zones represented by Ruhr Industrial Zone were distributed along the river. These enterprises not only ask for industrial water from the Rhine River, but also discharge a large amount of used industrial wastewater into the Rhine River. As a busy water transportation line, the Rhine River also bears the pollution brought by water transportation. At the same time, the development of industry needs labor force, which absorbs many agricultural people into cities near the Rhine River. The large urban population directly leads to the increase of domestic sewage, and a large amount of industrial waste and domestic sewage pour into the Rhine River at the same time. The Rhine has become a “European sewer”.

on July 11, 1950, Switzerland, France, Luxembourg, the Federal Republic of Germany and the Netherlands established the International Commission for the protection of the Rhine River (ICPR) in Basel, Switzerland.

although ICPR made great efforts at the beginning of its establishment, the initial work did not achieve remarkable results. Because after World War II, countries on the European continent need to quickly rebuild their homes on the ruins, and the development of industry is a top priority. Moreover, for the nine countries in the basin, the importance of the Rhine River is not the same, and the economic development level of these nine countries is also different. Therefore, in the 1970s, the pollution of the Rhine River further intensified, and a large number of untreated organic wastewater poured into the Rhine River, resulting in the continuous reduction of oxygen content in the Rhine River, the reduction of biological species, the death of a large number of fish and other aquatic animals in the river, and the smell of the river. Salmon, the most representative fish, began to die.

on November 1, 1986, an explosion occurred in a chemical plant near Basel, Switzerland. When fighting the fire, the water column ejected washed 20 tons of highly toxic pesticides into the Rhine River. Hundreds of kilometers of the river were highly toxic polluted, and all fish and other organisms died. After the accident, the ministers responsible for the management of the Rhine River in the coastal countries held emergency meetings in Zurich and Rotterdam to discuss countermeasures, and finally entrusted the International Committee for the protection of the Rhine River to formulate a plan to completely eradicate the Rhine River. After the accident, Swiss sandos chemical company donated 5 million Swiss francs under public pressure to eliminate pollution and improve the living environment of aquatic animals. The sandos fund provided funding for the first phase of the Rhine action plan. For fear of losing consumer support, driven by the green party, chemical companies in Switzerland and Germany took the lead, followed by France, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, and donated millions of dollars for the research and restoration of the Rhine River. They all hope to establish a good environmental reputation.

in 1987, at the environmental protection conference held in Strasbourg, France, the environmental ministers of coastal countries unanimously adopted the action plan for the Rhine River before 2000 formulated by the International Commission for the protection of the Rhine River. Since then, the governance of the Rhine River has opened a new page. This plan has been unanimously supported by countries in the Rhine River Basin and the European community. It is characterized by taking ecosystem restoration as the main indicator of Rhine River Reconstruction and a method to assess environmental changes based on the population performance of sensitive species in the basin. The plan details the conditions that need to be provided for the return of biological communities to the Rhine River and its tributaries. The overall goal of governance is that the Rhine River should become “the backbone of a complete ecosystem”. In this plan, the goal of water environment improvement is not simply measured by several water quality indicators, but to restore a complete watershed ecosystem, which is based on the concept that “clean rivers should be the backbone of a sound ecosystem”. By 2000, the predetermined objectives of environmental improvement and ecological restoration of the Rhine River will be fully realized, with dense forests along the river, developed wetlands and clear and clean water quality. Salmon have migrated from the estuary to Switzerland upstream to lay eggs, and fish, birds and amphibians return to the Rhine River.

overall, ICPR has played an important role in the treatment of this accident and the overall regulation of Rhine River pollution. ICPR is composed of Member States and observer institutions. The observer institutions also organize tap water, mineral water companies and food enterprises. They are the most sensitive to water quality, so they have become an alarm for water pollution. Chemical enterprises that are prone to pollution also hope to get the opportunity of dialogue and communication with the supervisor. For example, a winery in the Netherlands suddenly found an unprecedented chemical in the water they took from the Rhine River. The winery reported the situation to the Committee. The Committee has eight monitoring stations distributed in various countries. They soon found out that the substance was a pesticide sprayed by a French vineyard and flowed into the Rhine River. The vineyard finally compensated for the loss.

ICPR adopts the decision-making system of the Ministerial Conference, which is held regularly every year to make important decisions and clarify the tasks of the Committee and Member States. The implementation of decisions is the responsibility of Member States. The Committee has three permanent working groups and two project groups to prepare and refine the decision-making of the committee, which are respectively responsible for water quality monitoring, restoration and reconstruction of the ecosystem of the Rhine River Basin and monitoring pollution sources. The highest decision-making body of




ICPR is the plenary meeting attended by ministers of all countries, which is held once a year to decide major issues, which are implemented by different countries with their own costs; But executive discussion