Rejuvenation of rivers contributed to reducing unemployment in Dortmund: Mayor

Photo: WAM

Rejuvenation of rivers flowing through a German city contributed to reducing unemployment, as revived rivers created a new landscape that attracted new housing, population and industries producing jobs, the city’s mayor told Emirates News Agency, WAM.

Ullrich Sierau, Lord Mayor, City of Dortmund, said the municipality revitalised big rivers that had ended up in the past as sewerage system for industrial plants in the city.

After almost 15-year long efforts, now the riverbanks are green and beautiful. "It is good to go there. You will find butterflies and kingfisher birds. It is a wonderful experience," he said in an interview during his recent visit to Abu Dhabi.

It was a tough task to revive the rivers. "There were optimists and pessimists about the plan. I was an optimist; it was my personal dream," said the mayor of the city with nearly 600,000 inhabitants.

"Finally optimists always win! After the success of the project, people are saying this is the place we want to live," Sierau explained.

In Dortmund, the River Ruhr and the River Lenne flow to the south of the city and the Datteln-Hamm Canal to the north. The Dortmund-Ems Canal terminates in the large Dortmund Harbour, which is almost in the middle of town.

The revival of the rivers and building a knowledge economy played a big role in Dortmund’s transformation to a city with new job opportunities, the mayor said.

"We lost a lot of jobs in our [traditional] industries. This was a chance to reinvent the role of the municipality. We followed sustainable aspects [of knowledge economy] and found new jobs in digitalisation, information technologies, biomedicine etc.," Sierau explained.

"We have new universities with around 50,000 students. We have a lot of startups in the city," he said.

The unemployment rate is 7 to 8 percent now, which was 19 percent 15 years ago, the mayor revealed. "We have reduced it more than a half in 15 years, through structural changes, the universities that educate and train young people and startups offering new jobs," he said.

The mayor said that he has invited the UAE to invest in businesses in Dortmund. "You are very innovative; you can get well-trained people in the city to work for you; it will be a good deal."

The biggest city in the Ruhr Area in Germany is making all efforts to reduce carbon emissions as part of its sustainable development agenda, the mayor said.

"We finance our public transport systems and have converted bikes to e-bikes [electric bikes] to cut emissions from the transportation sector," he said.

"In Germany, only 6.5 percent households have e-bikes, in Dortmund it is 13 percent; we are aiming to make it 20 percent," the mayor said.

If people prefer bikes to cars, it is good for their health and environment, he pointed out.

About the similar efforts of the UAE for sustainable development, the mayor said, "We know in Germany that the Emirates are mastering the future. It [UAE] is a place of innovation. It is an amazing place; it is inspiring to see what people of this country have achieved since 1970s.

"When the UAE celebrates its 50th anniversary next year, we applaud the people here [for their achievements]," he said.

About refugees in Dortmund and their integration to the society, the city has a concrete action plan in this regard, said Sierau who has been the mayor sine 2009.

The refugees are mainly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, who left their countries because of conflicts, and from African countries such as Cameroon and Mali, who migrated due to economic reasons, he explained.

"We have ‘social action plan’ as we call it. We train them, we support them financially and we want them to be members of our society," he affirmed.

The projects to integrate the refugees offer educational and training programmes. In the case of Syrians, many of them are doctors and engineers, the mayor revealed.

"It is easy for us to integrate them [doctors and engineers]. We have to educate them according to our system to get a new qualification to work in our system. We have realised that they are very motivated," he said.

However, the uneducated among the refugees need a lot of training. "We ask them whether they would like to work as craftsmen. The local craftsmen are very happy to have new people. Many of them [refugees] have got training in such skilled works and found jobs," the mayor said.

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