Berlin Big Jump with policy impact
The YNRA-interview with Silke Gebel, Member of the Berlin House of Representatives and chairman of the Green party Berlin:
Dear Mrs. Gebel, this summer you celebrated with us the European Swimming Day in Berlin on the Isle of Youth. Since then, your party, the Greens, have been elected into the government, together with the Social-Democrats and the Left party. We are curious of course: does the new government also stand for a “political leap” for the water demands presented this summer at the Big Jump? As “Big Jumpers” we would like to see river swimming places in the Spreekanal as well as elsewhere, like the Isle of Youth. Will this "Spree-dream" come true under the red-red-green coalition?
We were able to clearly establish in the coalition agreement that we not only want to but will make a leap in the coming years in the direction of swimming in the Spree. We support the project "Flußbad Berlin" and we are also working on other river swimming areas. You see, the Big Jump is effective. :-)
Image: Screenshot Coalition Agreement for Berlin 2016-2021:
Water protection is a multi-generational task. In fact, there is even a water-educational network in Berlin - but no position in the Senate that supports this network and could systematically coordinate the educational task of water protection in pre-schools, schools and youth associations. So is there anything happening to improve on the status quo?
We want to expand pedagogical work in the area of environmental and sustainability education. To this end, environmental education centers will be set up in each district. One focus is to offer nature experiences to children and teenagers. In this context, education for water protection also will be strengthened.
Sadly, given all the beauty of Berlins “Spree-Athens”, we learned during the expert presentations at our Berlin River Camp that rainwater overflows from the canalization 20-30 times per year, unfiltered! After such heavy rain events, fish regularly die and river swimmers definitely should pack their swimming suits away. What will the new government do to prevent this repeated pollution of the Spree?
We will also work on this central problem of water protection. I am very pleased that we have clearly said in our coalition agreement that there will be a funding program for greener roofs and a rainwater concept in Berlin. With these measures, we will be able to relieve the sewage system, so that less untreated sewage flows into the Spree.
During the River Swimming Day 2016, Berliners and Brandenburgers protested with a boat trip against climate and water damaging mining policy. This shows, as also told by our youth camp participants from the Scheldt, that many river problems flow across administrative boundaries. At the Scheldt, there is therefore a three-country youth parliament. Would something like this be conceivable between Berlin and Brandenburg? And who is the right contact in Berlin policy for this idea?
Yes, water protection often requires a trans-boundary plan. Here in Berlin we have for example the problem that the brown coal concentration in Brandenburg and Saxony-Anhalt increases the concentration of sulphate in the river Spree and threatens our drinking water supply. A three-country youth parliament which takes up and tackles such cross-country problems for water protection is a great idea. The right address for this are environmental policymakers.
In the international Blue City Index, Berlin is in the class of "resource-efficient and adaptive" cities. However, Berlin has not yet reached the highest category of the index. This includes cities that wisely deal with their water (water-wise city). Berlin has the chance to reach this top position and take an international pioneer role. This includes in particular a water management system which responds to the wishes and deliberations of the citizens and actively includes them in the planning phase. Are there related ideas in the new government? And what do you think of the idea of a "blue community" which endorses, like the city of Bern (http://www.bluecommunity.ch/), human right to water and the joint commitment to living rivers in Europe and worldwide, considered hence as a wise approach as well as international task?
In the future, we will pay more attention to a better involvement of the civil society in the planning of water protection. I personally am very excited by the idea of a "Blue Community", which respects the sustainable use of water and is committed to the fact that water supply and use remains in the public hand.
The last question is one for the coming year: What is your message to the Youth Network for River Action for the year 2017?
I would like to thank you for your great work. Keep it up! Reclaim the river, there's still a long way to go! I am looking forward to the next big jump with you!
We thank you for this interview.
This interview has been translated from German. The demands of the Big Jump Berlin 2016 can be found in the „Travelguide to a River“, which is also available on this page. We send the Big Jump demands by mail to all Berlin political parties and invited them to the Big Jump 2016.