Climate change and the disaster of the environment have driven the planet in a crucial state. Although it is irreversible, countries all over the world have entered a route of mitigating this disaster. In this essay we are going to talk about how Hamburg, one of the largest cities in Europe and one of the largest and busiest ports worldwide, have managed to solve in a big percentage, regardless of its big population, issues, among others, like reduction of CO2 emissions and management of waste disposal and recirculation.
We are also going to see one environmental issue that hasn’t been solved yet and we are going to explore the various impacts of this as well as what Hamburg is planning to do about it in the future.2 The city of Hamburg and the importance of its port
The Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg is a city state and the second largest city in Germany with 1,7 million of inhabitants. It is a cultural and a commercial center for Northern Germany, its metropolitan region consisting of approximately 4 million people. Hamburg municipal area is equal to 755,3 km2 and embraces 14 districts around the City of Hamburg.(HPA,2011) It is the third biggest industrial area In Germany after Ruhr and Berlin, with business related to aircraft and ship building industry, automotive industry and mineral oil processing. However the highest importance is the industry that is related to the harbor and all its activities.
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The port of Hamburg is the largest port in Germany, the third largest port in Europe and one of the ten largest ports worldwide. Only the port by itself employs around 75,000 people and more than 133,000 jobs are directly or indirectly related to the port due to its high importance as it is one of the most important trading centers in Northern Europe. As for this reason Hamburg sustainability has become very topical as environmental protection has turned into a major factor for business decisions.
3 Environmental issues solved
3.1 Reduction of CO2 emissions
Hamburg has gone too far investigating and researching new methods of contributing in the mitigation of climate change. One major issue that has been solved at a considerable percentage is the reduction of CO2 emissions. The efforts are great considering the scale of energy demand, the city’s population and the port’s traffic. The government itself has gone into an ECO-partnership with the commercial sector, encouraging companies to go beyond statutory requirements regarding CO2 emissions. As for the port, Hamburg has established the “Automated container taxis” which in fact eliminates the transportation of containers via trucks and instead containers are transported from one terminal to the other, through long distance railway. (New European Economy, 2012)
In the city, again Hamburg gives the example, having many cleaner means of transportation for short and long ranges. Not only the world’s biggest fleet of hydrogen-fuelled buses, but also an exclusive bicycle network exists in the city, with additional bike lanes and cycle-hire schemes. (European Union, 2011)
Last but not least Hamburg has in many places around the city heating plants which provide “district heating”. This system produces and provides heating to some districts using, as basic energy consumption renewable energy such as solar energy, wind energy and biomass, combined with fossil fuels. All these have a huge impact on the environment and people because it has a considerable reduction in CO2 emissions, great noise reduction, less need for fossil fuel consumption, so that means, a healthier and greener way of life.
3.2 Waste water management
Sustainable waste water management has been a top priority is Hamburg for more than a decade. Mainly the Public Sewage Company HSE but also other organizations have invested a considerable amount of money so that Hamburg will reach a satisfactory percentage of prevention of waste water to go to lakes and waterways.
The key issues that were achieved were the storage of waste water in tanks, the treatment of waste water, which actually is the dehydration of the waste water, the separation of ammonia in the waste water (de nitrification) and the energy production from the separated sludge.
Especially in the energy production from the sludge, HSE has done a great job, equipping all the treatment plants with a new chain process which exploits energy resulting from the treated sludge. So as a result of this sewage gases are transformed to electric energy, further decreasing CO2 emissions that stated before. (European Union, 2011)
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Also there is a concept to come into force from the HWC company in the near future that will be a great innovation. According to that concept every residence will be able to manage, treat, and recycle the waste water disposal and also convert it to energy.
All of the above have as a result the creation of a better environment for the flora and fauna in the lakes and waterways, the recycling of the evaporated water which comes in terms of rain and the increase in the oxygen expulsion.
4 Issue that has not been yet solved
Since there isn’t any city, state or country in the world that has solved all the environmental problems, same goes for Hamburg that has one critical environmental problem that troubles scientists and researchers for long time now and that goes with river Elbe. Due to Hamburg’s location and topography there is a need for dredging of accumulating sediments. Since 1990’s, it was decided that the deepening of river Elbe was a critical matter since it was found that the sediments were highly contaminated and they needed to be treated before they could go into disposal.
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4.1 River Elbe
River Elbe is the third largest river in Central Europe after Danube and Rhine and in terms of length it covers a distance of 1091 km (727 km in Germany, 364 km in Czech Republic). Its catchment area goes through Prague, Dresden, Berlin and Hamburg. Especially around the city of Hamburg, where the port of Hamburg is allocated, river Elbe is influenced by the tide.
4.2 Environmental problems on River Elbe
As we mentioned before river Elbe is influenced by the tide. This has as a result to have several sediments staying at the bottom of the river, and following that, the level of the seabed of the river is rising through time. In order to sustain the trade of the harbor by having free passage to ships, as well as keeping the harbor fully operational, the depth of river Elbe and thus the depth of navigation needed to be assured. Constant dredging was the answer to the problem to achieve that depth. At the beginning of the idea, the sediments that were dredged from river Elbe were used again for agriculture. However it was found that the dredged sentiments were contaminated with heavy metals (As, Cd, Hg, Zn) and organic contaminants (PCB, Dioxins, PAHs) which had great negative impacts to the environment (Heise, 2005). This pollution was a result of upstream industrial activities in the former GDR (German Democratic Republic) and Czech Republic such as pharmaceutical, chemicals from mining, pulp and paper, and leather-processing industries (Netzband et al., 2002).
Until 2000 there were some measures that were taken in order to reduce this contamination, such as the treatment of the dredged sediments. This system was aparted from two sections. The first section was the pre-treatment which was the separation of the sediments into sand and contaminated silt fraction, and the main treatment was the dewatering process followed by the environmentally safe disposal of the silt. Both treatments were carried out by one large scale plant named METHA (Netzband, 2002).
Since 2000 the sediments have been increasing 3 to 4 million m3 per year (HPA, 2005b). This is of great importance to Hamburg and its environment because from one point the sediments have to be dredged more quickly, due to the current needs of the harbor area and from another point the capacity of METHA has already been exceeded. As it is understandable the continuously dredging of river Elbe destroys its morphological environment, and from at the part of the pollutants we already have a decrease in oxygen, combined with the existence of contaminants we have a progressive destruction of the environment. Especially the summer time the oxygen depletion of river Elbe is great which results in a large number of fish kills.
4.3 Possible solutions
Although the dredging of river Elbe is an issue that troubles researchers for over two decades, the impacts are not irreversible. Since the reason for deepening river Elbe is solely financial, it is suggested by the Federal Ministry for the Environment, that a second port should be opened as a deep water port, located at Wilhelmshaven and acting as a hub (HA, 2004a). This is one of the best ideas if it will be financially supported, so that the need of 24 hour navigation on river Elbe, regardless of the tide, will be eliminated as well as the need for dredging. Apart from that, the European WFD (Water Framework Directive) implements new quality standards for chemicals used in agriculture.
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