From even to odd: Renaturalization of the River Schunter

August 1, 2019

The Middle Oker Water Maintenance Association in Braunschweig plans the renaturation of the Schunter in Rühme. By the end of 2020, the river will be transformed back into a semi-natural habitat - with the help of Volkswagen Financial Services.  

Lars Henner Santelmann (Vorstandsvorsitzender der Volkswagen Financial Services AG) (2. v.l.) gemeinsam mit Dr. Bernd Hoppe-Dominik (Verbandsvorsteher des Wasserverbands Mittlere Oker) (1. v.l.), Ulrich Markurth (Oberbürgermeister der Stadt Braunschweig) (3.v.l.) und Julien Mounier (Vorstandsvorsitzender BS|ENERGY) (4. v.l.) bei der Projekteröffnung.

The pike, stone loach, moor frog – just a few examples of animal species that have become rare in and along German streams and rivers. The reason for this lamentable development is that many of these watercourses simply flow too fast. Slowly flowing waters, and the valuable habitats for flora and fauna they provide, hardly exist anymore in their original form. So why is that? Many smaller stretches of water have been channeled and straightened over decades into canal-like corridors, artificially constricted by embankments, and forced to take fast-flowing, and therefore unnatural, courses through the landscape. The River Schunter in Lower Saxony is no exception. It runs from its source near Räbke am Elm to where it joins the River Oker between Walle and Groß Schwülper through a considerable part of the countryside north-west of Braunschweig and has visibly suffered numerous realignments and bank reinforcements with the resulting loss of vegetation.

  Und an dieser Stelle kommen die Volkswagen Financial Services ins Spiel, genauer gesagt, ans Wasser, denn Europas größter automobiler Finanzdienstleister unterstützt nun erstmals ein Umweltschutzprojekt direkt vor seiner Haustür – die Renaturierung der Schunter, die nur  wenige hundert Meter am Headquarter in Braunschweig-Rühme vorbei fließt. Was soll konkret geschehen? Bis Ende 2020 werden Strömungs- und Habitatverhältnisse verbessert und standortorttypische Gehölze gepflanzt, sodass auch das Ausuferungsvermögen des kleinen Flusses optimiert wird. Um die Schunter als Naherholungsgebiet attraktiver zu gestalten werden zudem alte Fußgängerbrücken durch neue barrierefreie Brücken ersetzt. Infotafeln, Zugänge zum Wasser und begrünte Erdhügel sollen die sich entwickelnde Natur erlebbar werden lassen.

This is where Volkswagen Financial Services become involved, or to put it more precisely (albeit metaphorically), get their feet wet. Europe's largest provider of automotive financial services is now supporting an environmental protection project right on its doorstep for the first time – the renaturalization of this River Schunter, which flows past only a few hundred meters away from its company headquarters in Braunschweig-Rühme. What will be happening exactly? By the end of 2020, flow and habitat conditions will be improved and various species of woody plants like trees, bushes and shrubs typical for the location will be planted. The restoration of the floodplain will also optimize the ability of the small river to spread out beyond its banks. To make the Schunter more attractive as a local recreation area, old footbridges will be replaced by new barrier-free bridges. And occasional information boards, water access points and greened earth mounds will help people experience the developing nature more vividly.

Management Board Chairman Lars Henner Santelmann made the following statement at the launch of the project: "We have felt closely associated with the objective of nature conservation for many years. We are now delighted that the Schunter project will enable us to make a significant contribution towards preserving biodiversity in our own home region." Volkswagen Financial Services – together with NABU, Germany's oldest and largest nature protection organization – have already been devoting themselves to the preservation of the natural environment for many years. As a result of this work, numerous moorland areas have been protected in both national and international projects since 2009 and restored to their natural state and purpose through renaturalization measures. Volkswagen Financial Services are supporting the project, which is funded by the NBank in Lower Saxony, with the sum of EUR 340,000.

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