Berlin’s urban redevelopment along the Spree

This year ARCADIS launched its first Sustainable Cities Index. The purpose of the index is to take 50 of the most prominent cities and look at how viable they are as places to live, their environmental impact, their financial stability and how these elements complement one another.

While there are many databases that measure cities in a broad cross-section of livability and business climates, ARCADIS believes that to truly understand the sustainability of a city an index needs ‘’to amalgamate these attributes from the perspectives of People, Planet and Profit to form a comprehensive view of each location’’ and its position on the Sustainability Index.

  • People: Measures social performance including quality of life
  • Planet: Captures environmental factors like energy emissions and pollution
  • Profit: Assesses business environment and economic performance

In the overall Sustainability Index, Berlin is ranked 6th due to its strong commitments towards resource and environmental sustainability. One project that will increase the city’s commitment towards the environment is Project Flussbad Berlin.

Berlin’s urban redevelopment along the Spree: Project Flussbad

In Berlin, one of the largest sources of water pollution is from the mixed wastewater system in the city’s inner districts. The system overflows after heavy rainfall up to 30 times a year. Each time, a large amount of unpurified wastewater enters directly into the River Spree, impacting water quality and the ecosystem of the river. Project Flussbad aims to permanently transform a 1.6-km stretch of the Spree River in Berlin’s historic center that has gone unused for more than 100 years.

With funding of US$4.8 million from the National Projects of Urban Development program and the State of Berlin, the project will create a 750-meter stretch of the Spree Canal along Museum Island into a publicly-accessible swimming pool: for at least half a million residents of the city this will be their closest natural bathing waters. The natural swimming pool’s water will be of bathing water quality with the filtered water coming from an upper 1.6-km stretch of the Spree Canal that will be re-naturalized into a biotope landscape and reed basin to purify the river water by natural means: on the upper stretch 390-meters long a 7,200 m² constructed wetland will purify the running water in a natural way while the 640-meter uppermost section of the river will be re-naturalized to become a wildlife habitat.

Project Flussbad revitalizing Berlin

Project Flussbad revitalizing Berlin

Project Flussbad’s contributions towards People, Planet and Profit

The environmental impact of the project will be the improvement in the water quality of the whole river by filtering around 16 million m³ of water per year. In the upper section, restored to nature, the project will reduce the rate of flow to about 1.5 cm/sec on a surface of about 1.8 ha making it an old arm of the river. This will create a large ecological ‘stepping stone’ to arise within the river landscape: dividing the distance between the next potential wildlife habitats both upstream and downstream, promoting the settlement and migration of riparian flora and fauna. The project will also contribute towards raising public awareness on the need to ensure water quality in the city’s river. Increased public awareness will in turn inform and pressure decision-makers on the steps required to ensure all rivers are maintained in healthy conditions for recreational use and ecosystem health. Finally, the project is of value to Berlin as the city lives from its ‘image’ of ruptures and contradictions. This image drives tourism and in particular ensures a constant inflow of young people who are vital to the city’s cultural and educational landscape and for many branches of the economy.

The take-out

Innovative projects can revitalize the health of urban waterways, benefiting not only ecosystems but inhabitants and the economy too.

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Author: Robert C. Brears

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2 Comments

  1. Interessant
    L’idée de la phytorémédiation doit pouvoir se développer
    Dans beaucoup de pays en voie de développement

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  2. Berlin has set itself an exciting challenge. I can’t see it happening in the UK any time soon. Focus and funding in the UK is almost entirely on sustainable buildings and energy or yet larger and more expensive drains (Thames Tideway).

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