The Emschergenossenschaft – the water board responsible for managing the river Emscher in the Ruhr valley – was founded 120 years ago on 14 December 1899. The decision to establish Germany’s first public water board was born out of necessity, but it ensured the region’s survival. Faced with the task of overcoming the sewage problem in the surrounding coal mining area, the Emschergenossenschaft completely modified the Emscher river system in the first half of the twentieth century. The river as an open wastewater drain, squeezed into a concrete corset, became a defining feature of the region and of many cities’ urban landscape for the better part of the last century.
When structural change hit, the Emscher ultimately took on a different role. The rehabilitation and regeneration of the river became a symbolic project that mirrored the transformation of the coal mining area from an industrial district to a modern metropolitan region.
This book marks the anniversary by compiling a range of relevant essays produced over three decades. Taken together, they illustrate the variety of perspectives on the modification of the Emscher and the enormous effort it takes to restructure an entire river system right in the heart of one of Europe’s largest metropolitan areas.