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Germany

Making the Former Iron Curtain Green

The former Iron Curtain could become the "Green Curtain" if Environment Minister Jürgen Trittin and former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev have their way.

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Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin: almost 85 percent of the land along which the former wall ran remains undeveloped.

More than a decade after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the barbed wire, mines and fences that once split Germany have been cleared away leaving unspoiled, undeveloped land.

Though in German federal government hands since then, the so-called "Green Belt" will soon be turned over to the states along which it runs. The plan is to put the belt and the hundreds of endangered plants and animals that now call it home, under full environmental protection.

"This is one of the biggest and best successes for natural conservation ... in Germany," said Dr. Angelika Zahrnt, following the signing of a formal agreement at a conference in Bonn on Monday and Tuesday.

A study by Zahrnt's organization, the National Organization for the Environment and Conservation (BUND), reported that 85 percent of the 1,400 kilometer-long belt is undeveloped. Rare birds and insects as well as orchids have grown undisturbed in the belt since reunification in 1990.

A green belt from Scandinavia to the Adriatic

Environment Minister Jürgen Trittin, who signed the agreement along with former Soviet Premier and Green Cross International President Mikhail Gorbachev, described the German green belt as a mere stepping stone.

Ungarische Grenzbeamte bauen die Grenzanlagen zu Östereich ab Quiz 50 Jahre Deutsche Welle Frage 6

Hungarian border guards cut down a barbed wire fence from its support as Hungary started dismantling its 354 kilometers of "Iron Curtain" towards Austria and the Free West, in this May 2, 1989, photo. Ten years ago Hungary defied its communist allies and opened its borders to the West for East Germans seeking to flee their repressive homeland, a decision which hastened the collapse of communism. (AP Photo/Bernhard J. Holzner)

"My vision is that we would have a green belt, from Norway, the Norwegian-Russian border over the former so-called Iron Curtain down to the south," Trittin told Deutsche Welle.

There is much to be done before that dream is realized, however. The Russian Federation is asking the European Union to give their country a special status with regard to the belt.

Around 65 percent of all Russians live along the Volga River, an ecologically sensitive area which is seeing rapid industrial growth in recent years.

The Russians would like to be able to tap into EU research and development funds and have asked for European help in establishing ecological guidelines for industry.

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  • Date 16.07.2003
  • Author DW-WORLD staff with reporting by John Hay
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  • Permalink http://p.dw.com/p/3rhw
  • Date 16.07.2003
  • Author DW-WORLD staff with reporting by John Hay
  • Print Print this page
  • Permalink http://p.dw.com/p/3rhw