The Lippe restructuring - back to nature
Originally, the Lippe was a typical lowland river with meanders, oxbow lakes, and banks of sand and gravel. In the event of high water, the river regularly flooded the lowlands along its banks, and thus created a living watermeadow landscape with woodlands, reedbeds, wild grasslands, and swampy and grassy areas. In the 19th century, the Lippe was aggressively changed by water management measures, located as it was on the northern margins of the increasingly industrialised and ever more densely populated Ruhr area. These measures included the straightening, and hence also shortening, of the river, the reinforcement of the banks by means of riprap revetments, flood protection measures such as levees and dykes, and the construction of weirs and barrages.
Downstream of Hamm, severe pollution occurred through the drainage of industrial and municipal wastewater. The Lippe had become a denaturalised, artificially lined river, whose watermeadows had largely been cut off from the river and dried out.
In 1976 there began a process of rethinking, which continues to this day, and at the end of which will be a considerably more natural Lippe. Although it is no longer possible to return to its original condition, the Lippe again will be allowed to choose its own course – wherever possible. Released from its bonds, the river and the revitalised watermeadow landscape on its banks will become an ecologically valuable habitat for an abundance of plants and animals, and a tourist attraction.