Although remediation efforts have been underway by the private and public sectors more recently, the cause of this pollution can largely be traced to its canalization following World War II and a lack of environmentally responsible infrastructure capable of handling the amounts of toxic discharge and other effluents that are produced in the area. According to Verweij, “The canalization of the Rhine, as well as the discharge of polluted wastewater from industrial, agricultural and municipal sources, has had a devastating impact on the ecosystems of the river, at least until the middle of the 1980s” (2000:79). The intensive push for massive industrialization to rebuild the German economy following the end of World War II can be discerned from the official records of the period. According to Verweij, “Records from both governmental and non-governmental organizations show that the environmental degradation was at its peak in the late 1960s and early 1970s” (2000:79). The structural changes that took place following reunification also had a significant impact on the economic performance of the Rhine/Ruhr area. In this regard, Braczyk, Fuchs and Wolf report that, “The problems of structural change and renewal in the Ruhr area have also caused problems for the economic performance of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) in general. Total employment in NRW grew less than the West German average. To a large extent this weaker performance can be attributed to labor market developments in the Ruhr area. Unemployment in NRW (12 per cent) is above the (West) German average (10.6 per cent) with a peak of 14.9 per cent in the Ruhr area” (1999:134).
While these structural changes introduced some constraints on employment and production in the region, they also created some new opportunity for diversification that have been increasingly important from an economic developmental perspective. These changes reflect a transition from the previous traditionally-structured regional economy to what Braczyk and his associates describe as “a new economy which is based on future-oriented markets. One prominent example is the environmental protection industry which accounted for about 100,000 jobs in 1993” (Braczyk et al. 1999:134).
The research showed that the Rhine/Ruhr region of Germany has been an important industrial center for the production of a wide range of products, including many of those that are essential for a countrys infrastructure development and commercial processes. The research also showed that the relative importance of this region peaked during World War II, but the area also experienced some employment and economic problems following the structural changes that took place following German reunification in 1990. Finally, the research was consistent in showing that although the traditional industries that have operated out of the Rhine/Ruhr region remain important, the economic base of the area is experiencing some further structural changes as efforts to diversify continue to redefine the Rhine/Ruhr area of Germany.
Braczyk, Hans-Joachim, Gerhard Fuchs and Hans-Georg Wolf. Multimedia and Regional
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