Spaces, actors and new riverine ethics on the Ems

Nil/Cornelis Disco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The Ems estuary extends from just upstream of the German port of Emden to the North Sea. It is a network of tidal channels through the sand banks of the Wadden Sea and includes a contested border between Germany and the Netherlands. The estuary is the seaway for Emden and the Dutch port of Delfzijl. It was and is the object of intensive nautical management which, despite the border tensions, generally ensured progress and mutual economic benefit. A 1960 treaty on nautical cooperation formalized this bilateral commitment to economic growth. This paper focuses on the shift from economic development to ecological cooperation in the Ems estuary starting in the 1970s. While in the 1960s, for example, the Dutch had no qualms about disposing vast quantities of untreated industrial effluents into the Dollart, by 1979 they were arguing that plans to expand the port of Emden would disrupt the Dollart's fragile economy. As part of the growing ‘ecological web’ of international and European treaties, and thanks to the hard work of local and national environmentalist groups, the Ems estuary became the object of its own bilateral ecological agreement in 1996
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)113-121
JournalIrrigation and drainage
Issue numberSuppl. s1
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • IR-90394
  • METIS-303243


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