Karlsruhe (DPA) – Red granules are deposited in the Rhine in a clearly visible manner. Or better: in the model reproduced in the auditorium of the Federal Institute of Hydraulic Engineering (BAW) in Karlsruhe.
It represents the “Jungferngrund” on the Middle Rhine on the road between Mainz and St. The model simulates sediment transport over a detailed bedrock.
Climate change must be taken into account
BAW conducts research on many questions related to hydraulic engineering, prepares expert opinions or provides advice to the Federal Department of Transportation, for example. Experts have been dealing with environmental issues for decades. Aspects of climate change are now increasingly being added, says BAW Director Christoph Heinzelmann.
In principle, the topic concerns, for example, how to equip ships with new propulsion systems or how to design them differently for lower water levels – and last but not least the question of construction.
“We have to build more climate-friendly,” Heinzelmann says. Locks, dams, and other hydraulic structures are designed to last 100 years. “It means a lot of tangible.” Its production is associated with high carbon dioxide emissions. “We have to build more efficient resources and use materials that can be recycled.” Some sources, for example, of the component of concrete fly ash, a waste product in coal-fired power plants, for example, may eventually dry up.
The problem: According to Heinzelmann, there is not much time left. According to forecasts, lower water levels like 2018 will be the norm by the end of the century. And thanks to the glaciers of the Alps, the Rhine is still privileged. “We have to try solutions quickly,” the BAW president warns. “We shouldn’t waste any time.”
200 million tons of cargo
The length of the federal waterways network is about 7,300 km. According to the Federal Waterways and Shipping Administration (WSV), about 200 million tons of cargo are transported here each year. “Inland navigation therefore makes a crucial contribution to easing road and rail traffic,” a spokeswoman asserts. Modern barge replacing 150 trucks.
“There is clearly free capacity for more ships on federal waterways,” says Hans Heinrich Witt, head of the Directorate General of Waterways and Shipping. Inland shipping makes a “significant contribution to achieving climate goals”.
The service life has been reached or exceeded
However, about 60 percent of the 315 lockout systems and about half of the 307 dam systems operated by the WSV were built before 1950. About 10 percent of the dams and up to 20 percent of the locks date back to before 1900. Thus, they have reached Many facilities have exceeded or exceeded their normal service life.
According to the spokeswoman, the next actions are required with an annual budget of 1.7 billion euros. According to the Federal Department of Transportation, this amount should also be available this year. According to a spokesperson, this will increase by about 18 percent over 2021. “The government’s decision for the year 2023 budget and fiscal planning until 2026 is currently being prepared.” When identifying needs, the issue of resilience to the consequences of climate change is also taken into account. A network of experts advises the Ministry on this matter.
However, the Federal Association of German Inland Shipping (BDB) sees an imminent funding shortfall of around 500 million euros per year as of 2023. A spokesperson said: “The government urgently needs to take countermeasures here so that transport via inland waterways has a modern infrastructure. A list of needs will be available in the future. “After all, the transportation sector’s emissions reduction goals cannot be achieved in the coming years and decades without an increasing shift in traffic to environmentally friendly inland water transportation.”
“We want to make a quantum leap”
The only problem for engineers is that barges, unlike trucks and freight trains, cannot take short detours or switches during construction work. BAW manager Heinzelmann explains that locks often have only one chamber. In order not to completely stop the traffic, in the future it must be renovated at night and closed during the day.
“We want to make a quantum leap,” Heinzelmann says. The procedure is tested on the Neckar: many locks have two chambers here, one of which can be repaired using the new method and through which other ships pass as usual.
The main problem that Heinzelmann sees with respect to climate change is declining water. This will continue more and more for longer periods of time. Flood events such as the one that occurred in the Ahar Valley last year are relatively short in duration. There are also more serious consequences for smaller rivers, not larger waterways.
“Charging would be beneficial if you could provide more reliable forecasts of the water level,” Heinzelmann says. With construction procedures, the river can be slightly diverted, so that the passage becomes deeper. As in the case of the “Middle Rhine Optimization Loading” project at Karlsruhe Hall. This is about 20 cm more.
According to the Bahrain Development Bank, this is one of a number of important waterway infrastructure projects from the 2030 Federal Transport Routes Plan that should be highlighted. The spokesman explained that inland waterway vessels move longer and with better use even when water levels are low. “Transportation on the Rhine will be easier to plan and implement in the future, even in lower waters.”
© dpa-infocom, dpa: 220623-99-765506 / 5