Farewell EM39!

It appears as it has been only yesterday when we welcomed the participants of the 39th UNEP/UNESCO/BMUB International Postgraduate Course on Environmental Management in Dresden. However, scrolling backwards through the CIPSEM blog brings to mind, how much has happened since the opening ceremony in the TU Dresden rectorate on the 12th of January 2016. 184 days later, the EM39 group gathered at the Gewandhaus to celebrate their successful completion of the course with a festive award ceremony. Dr. Anna Görner opened the ceremony with her speech, followed by the dean of the Faculty of Environmental Sciences, Prof. Dr. Karl-Heinz Feger and the representative of the Umweltbundesamt, Ralph Wollmann. Accompanied by string music from a quartet of the Dresden Philharmonic Orchestra, the certificates were handed over, and the best final papers were honored. Ms. Hiba Mohammad from Syria, Ms. Mehri Alavinasab Ashgezari from Iran, Ms. Rocio Grommeck Pereira from Paraguay, Mr. Gabriel Amona from Nigeria and Mr. Vitus Tankpa from Ghana were distinguished for their excellent work. Finally Ms. Elon McCurdy and Mr. Gabriel Amona put the finishing touches to the ceremony with their joint speech as representatives of the course fellows.

In the evening the celebrations continued in a less formal but not less festive way in the CIPSEM club room. The table bend filled with delicious international dishes from 22 countries (Germany was also represented by … potato salad!) and rumor has it that there was dance and laughter deep into the night. EM39, it was a pleasure to meet you, we wish you all the best for your personal lives, your professional careers and for your efforts to push sustainable development forward in your home countries and in the world.

(Photos: H. Schluttig)

Rehabilitation and recultivation of open cast mining sites

Report by Mamadou Welle

In the frame of the module EM39 Soil & Land Resources an excursion on open cast lignite mining sites was organized on Tuesday 28th Jun 2016. Under the guidance of Prof. Kalbitz and Prof. Michael Haubold-Rosar, participants got the chance to learn more about the challenges of soil management. Besides discovering the impressive landscapes in such areas, we had deep insights in the principles and practices of soil reclamation and rehabilitation regarding water capacity or quality, nutrients status and ecological aspects.

A view of the open cast area (Photo: T. Karp)

It was reminded that soil formation takes time as shown by the geological map of the visited area, where the mining began at the end of the 19th century. The mining process was then explained, from mining preparation and water management to overburden removal and dumping. For instance, it is essential that the deposit is kept free from water in opencast mining. These operations are resources consuming but they are necessary to protect the soil and limit damages in the environment and people`s people health. Even some beneficial effects might derive from such investments as it is the case of recreation areas provided by man-made lakes emerging out of mining activities. The process of lands reclamation was documented with the visit of a former mining area where agriculture and forestry are now back.
For agriculture purposes, the reclaiming measures depend on the types of soil. Plants are selected in a rotation so as to fit to soil fertility. However it is difficult to reach the initial level of soil fertility. For example, it is needed 10 to 20% more seeds in reclaimed lands than in natural sites. Machines damages are also higher there.

Visiting reclaimed agricultural areas (Photo: T. Karp)

The last stage of the excursion was to walk around a forest developing on a former dump site. In the context of forestry the time frame for reclamation is rather longer. A monitoring system has to be set up progressively about the behavior of plants response to this unusual situation. It was indicated that weathering, and stabilization effect of fly ash   can have a positive impact on the growth of trees.  Hot spots of nutrients occur and a typical humus layer formation may be found in this forest.

Evidence of a typical humus layer formation (Photo: T. Karp)

Soil protection and forestry: A visit to the state-owned Massenei forestland, Saxony

Report by Christian Saravia (Guatemala)

Certainly nature conservation and landscape preservation is one of the most important issues for soil protection and forestry management. Our visit to soil protection and forestry at Massenei was on 21st June, the welcomed excursion was introduced by Dr. Rainer Petzold – who works as consultant in soil monitoring laboratory and Toni Eßbach – leader of the forestry service unit.
Historically nature conservation and landscape preservation by the free state of Saxony are of paramount importance for the conservation of the nature and the landscapes, some 40% of the Saxon nature conservation area as well as 25% of the Natura 2000 areas in Saxony are located in the stated owned forest. The objectives are restoration of bog lands, renovation of pounds, meadow maintenance projects, and various species protection.

Introduction by Mr. Eßbach (Photo: T. Karp)

Recreation for forest education and public relations has an incomparable value, by forest owners and foresters to conserve the tourism. The maintenance and development of recreational services geared to the needs of the people are among the central social tasks of the public enterprise. For this reason Sachsenforst organizes guided tours for forest and environmental educations, as well as action days and others events to counter act the effects of the people’s alienation from forest and nature.
In other aspects, one third of Saxony’s land area is forestland and almost 50% of the Saxon forest estate is privately owned. The task of the public enterprise Sachsenforst employs forest rangers with direct responsibility for private and corporate forest owners for giving free advice in terms of forest management options, nature conservation in forest and use of financial aids and many others. For the conservation of the forest 9 million young forest trees such as oak, beech, sycamore maple or silver fir are planted in the forest every year. The reintroduction of silver fir is the largest species protection project in the Saxon forestlands. And hunting plays a key role in the protection both the forest conversion investment and the biological diversity in the forest.
Science and research at the wood and forestry competence centre develops the basic knowledge for forestry decision making process for the management in which develops technical conditions and skills for giving advice and assistance to private and corporate forest owners. The competence center is divided by forest protection, forest genetics, soil monitoring, forest management, forest inventories, mapping and many more.

Water and nutrient cycles in forest ecosystems – an excursion to the Eastern Ore Mountains

Our group of the EM 39 course departed from Weberplatz to the Eastern Ore Mountains. (Altenberg region) at 8:05 am by chartered bus. The excursion was started with an explanation of the day’s activities by Prof. Dr. Karl-Heinz Feger. The excursion has focused on two major topics:

  1. Integrated monitoring in forest ecosystems, biogeochemistry, forest soils and hydrology
  2. Air pollution and forest decline

Our group reached the forest area of Altenberg at 9:00 am where Dr. Henning Andreae from Sachsenforst (Forest Services of Saxony) welcomed us.

Dr. Andreae together with Prof. Feger gave a comprehensive introduction into the forest, including history, coverage, management system, importance of forest ecosystems in general, and ongoing activities etc..

The altitude of the forest is 450 – 905 m asl.  Types of ownership are five, the state owns the largest percentage (49.2%) of the forest. Other owners are quasi-state “Treuhand” (26.9%), private (15.9%), municipal (7.2%) and churches (0.2%).

Then our group entered a monitoring site where 15 rain gauges and other devices monitor and collect scientific data. Annual rainfall of the area is 800 – 1100 mm.

The excursion gave an opportunity to learn about multifunctional forestry and the manifolds functions of forest: landscape conservation (100%), recreation (hiking, cross-country skinning) (28%), drinking water protection (14%), nature reserve (6%) and special soil protection (3%) (Source: distributed handouts). We also got a chance to see close up soil measurement plots and the measurement of seepage water.


After lunch break our group moved to the Kahleberg forest area as an example of ‘Air pollution and forest decline’ which was the next topic of the excursion. There has been severe forest decline in this area due to SO2 air pollution between 1960 and the early 1990s. Air quality and biogeochemical flux measurements at EU-Level-II sites have revealed a considerable decrease in sulfate and H+ deposition since 1990. Later, afforestation has been started in this area. Planted trees of this forest are from different parts of the world.

Afforestation after forest decline from air pollution

Melodious bird songs, the contrast/mixture of sun and rain, careful escorting by Roman and the experienced driver’s driving were the most beautiful parts of the excursion.

Our group on the Kahleberg mountain, overlooking a recovering forest.


Report by Binod Das Gurung (Nepal)

Photos by Binod Das Gurung (Nepal) and Dulip Somirathna (Sri Lanka, 1photo)  






Field trip through the UNESCO biosphere reserve Heath and pond landscape of Upper Lusatia

Author: Karimon Nesha

39th UNEP/UNESCO/BMUB course along with Tropical Forestry students of TU Dresden in the Biosphere Reserve

The purpose of UNESCO biosphere reserves is the protection of cultural landscapes. The size of the Biosphere Reserve Upper Lusatia Heath and Pond Landscape is 30.102 ha of which 10000 ha are used for agriculture. The biosphere reserve has a very special character as a result of extensive land use including agriculture, forestry and ponds. The pond landscape is unique for this reserve and started 800 years ago. The ponds are used for the cultivation of carps. People are also seen as part of the biosphere and use resources sustainably. There is also a teaching path in the forest. The reserve administration reports every 10  years to the UNESCO.

The UNESCO Biosphere Reserve has three zones:

  • Core zone : it covers maximum 20% of the area
  • Buffer zone
  • Transition zone or development area

The UNESCO Biosphere Reserve fulfills three tasks:

  • Sustainable land use
  • Nature conservation
  • Environmental education called education for sustainable development (ESD)

Administrative tasks may also be included in forest management in addition to the three tasks of biosphere reserve.

Ponds in the Biosphere Reserve

Around 10% of the reserve area  is ponds. There are about 347 ponds in the Reserve covering  2.415 ha. The first pond established around 1000 years ago and the shape has not much changed in the last 500 years. Mostly, carps are cultivated in the pond. The ponds are not deep. It is only 0.5m deep and flat as the carps need warm water. Carps feed on  small animals in water and on cereals. In winter, the water freezes, so carps are taken out of the ponds and put in winter ponds which are deeper and consequently do not freeze completely. It takes around 2.5 years to cultivate carps in the ponds. The carps are bred mainly in mono-cultures. Farmers are given incentives to produce diverse fish in the ponds.  The production of fish in the ponds are estimated to be 500 to 1,000 kilogram per year and hectare.

Agriculture and biodiversity: Village Kreba-Neudorf, farm of family Ladusch

In the farm, old and seriously threatened grain species (rye, wheat, spelt) are cultivated based on crop rotation under The Heritage Crop Varieties Project started in autumn 1997 supporting preserving the biodiversity of crop plants. The old cereal species are resistant to diseases.  Since 2007, the area of old cereal species cultivation is increasing. Three species are currently highly productive in the farm.

Forestry and Biodiversity: Dune of Mücka

Dune of Mücka was a former military area. Along with the abandonment of exercises in this military training area in 1991 heavy shrub invasion and forestation took place by natural succession. The great importance of those sites for thermophilic and xerophilic species has already become obvious by first surveys of the entomofauna and avifauna. In the meantime more than 30 sand wasp species, 110 wildbee species and 50 nesting bird species are represented here. Among other things, it is habitat for more than 50% of the hoopoe population, the curlew, camprimulgus (Camprimulgus europaeus), and of the hobby (Falco subbuteo) in the biosphere reserve. Today this forest is privately owned by nature foundation.  There are four categories in the forest. These are mentioned below:

  • Category N: this category represents natural vegetation. Almost 80% of the tree species are pine and the age of the pine is more than 100 years. About 90% species are native.
  • Category Transition: In this category, 60% of the trees are pine and the age of the pines is over 80 years. In 20 years, this category is expecting to transform in category N.
  • Category UL: The ages of this category are below 80 years. It will take more than 20 years to reach the status of conservation.
  • Category S: special: It is a lower intermediate forest type.

A journey to biodiversity conservation – excursion to the island of Vilm

The journey began on Sunday morning to the Isle of Vilm, a very beautiful nature paradise at the Baltic Sea coast. The story goes back to some 6,000 years ago from the waves of the rising sea Litorina which created an island from Moraines that glaciers had left during the years of ice age some 12,000 years ago.

During the brief introduction given at the same night we arrived, it was clear that the academy for nature conservation working at the isle gives its all to protecting the natural biodiversity in and around the area. The biodiversity rich nature reserve in the island has about 300 species of flora accompanied by a rich variety of fauna ranging from birds, bats and insects with a pair of white tailed eagle nest on this very island.

IMG_6050.JPGAt 9 am the following morning the lecture began with staff members of the Academy by picking out the most pressing issues in conservation and biodiversity. We started with biodiversity and ecosystem services (ES), and brief insights to the convention on biodiversity (CBD) by Horst Korn and Kathrin Bockmühl. This part of the CBD gave us how things really go at the convention and the challenges we face when it comes to the real deal of keeping nations interested in a common goal.

On Tuesday evening, we took a walk through the places of the island and learn/witness the beautiful forest first hand, dominated by aged beech trees of approximately 250-300 years. The spectacular view at the rugged land towards the sea gives a sensational feeling to the soul and it says a lot about the endless beauty of nature. On the way back we had the chance to see the photos of trees with their spectacular structures taken at this very island being kept in a gallery for quite some time (15 years).

After spending almost 3 full days at the world class guest houses and conference rooms accompanied by staff members of the academy and CIPSEM secretariat; a journey awaited for us on Thursday to depart froT the isle to Jasmund national park located at the South East Rügen biosphere reserve. On our way inside we also visited the Konigsstuhl national park center which is found at the center of national park Jasmund on the island Rügen opened in 2004. It provides information about the national park by also making visitors’ experiences easier and fun. With its 2,000 sq.m exhibition on the theme ‘journey back in time’ took as back to the past of the ice ages. Without the need of tour guide it was amazing how information is passed through the headphones provided at the entrance. The last visit for the day was at the ‘Naturerbezentrum Prora’. On the way through we saw the ‘eagle nest’ viewing tower that enables to see the island and marine sceneries.

Authors: Gerald Lifa and Hilina Yohannes

Excursion to the German Environment Agency (UBA)

Our CIPSEM journey continued from 18th to 19th of May 2016 in the city of Dessau. The visit to the German Environment Agency (UBA) began with an introduction and welcome speech by Mr. Ralph Wollmann, who gave background information about the history of the German Environment Agency and explained its participation and contribution to CIPSEM courses. Furthermore Mr. Wollmann talked about the role of UBA in the german society and the international community.

Following up were interactive sessions on several topics from the manifold portfolio of the agency. Among others there were talks on water resources management and climate change adaptation in Germany, transboundary movement of waste, environmental risk regulation of pesticides, green economy and much more.

The stay in Dessau was furthermore accompanied guided tours through the price winning main building of UBA and the world famous Bauhaus.

Report and photographs by Hisham Abdelgawad (Egypt)

Urban planning in the city of Dresden and surroundings

On April 29th, one of the first and long-awaited sunny days of the Dresdner Frühling (spring in Dresden), we explored some key places of the city to learn about different methods of urban planning and urban changes that took place in the last 30 years, with the guidance of Dr. Schmidt (Chair of Landmanagement, TU Dresden). The first place we visited was the southern area of the city of Dresden, next to the Bismarckturm (Bismarck Tower) in the District of Zschertnitz, from where we had a wonderful view of the valley in which the central part of the city was developed and is still growing. There, some important explanations were done by Dr. Schmidt concerning the types of land uses (forests, agriculture, industrial areas, settlements), the distribution of the agglomerations, the rural areas and the traffic corridors in the State of Saxony, as well as the population changes in the city of Dresden between the 1970s and nowadays, which shows the increasing amount of inhabitants in the city since 2005 due to higher rates of births and migration from the surroundings to Dresden. At the moment, Dresden is the 12th biggest city in Germany.

After this first insight we headed to the District of Gorbitz, part of the city of Dresden, to see a housing complex with a total of 15,000 flats for 40,000 people, 10% of the population of the city at the end of the 1980s. The complex was first planned in the 1970s, in the GDR (German Democratic Republic) times, when a lack of housing for the population in East Germany urged the Government in Berlin to plan large house building programs that would be developed up to the 1990s, in 5-year plans. The municipal planners of the city of Dresden decided to build the houses on former agricultural lands in Gorbitz. The reasons to choose this area were a relative good connection to the city center through the existing transportation network at the time and the proximity to a market and shopping area to ensure the provisioning of basic goods for the population that were going to inhabit the new flats. To build such a large amount of houses, an industrialized method of building was developed: the prefabricated type. In 1981 the first constructions started. The buildings had 6-floors each and contained many flats of 1 or 2 rooms that were all designed with the same shape, look and disposition. All the flats were owned by the Government and/or by cooperatives, to which people had to apply to rent one. The complex was fully planned with all the basic services (water, sewerage, heating, electricity), new streets, the extension of the transportation network, open green areas, schools and kindergartens, new market areas, but without working areas such as industries, large commercial areas, etc. After the reunification of Germany, a lot of houses were built in other places of Dresden and many people moved out from Gorbitz to the newly built flats. Several of the empty flats of the complex were deconstructed completely or reduced to fewer floors due to the high costs of maintenance. Nowadays, the city of Dresden is investing in the improvement and modernizing of the flats to attract people again to live there.

The third site we visited was in the District of Kesselsdorf in the city of Wilsdruff, right next to Dresden, as an example of “sub-urbanization”. Kesselsdorf remained mostly a rural area up to the 1990s, when a settlement was developed on former agricultural lands by the hand of private initiative of investors of the so called West Germany. This represented new opportunities of tax incomes for the municipality, which was the responsible to choose the site for the construction. This sub-urbanization was very common after the reunification of Germany, since an increasing amount of housing buildings in the surroundings of the cities were built. In the case we visited, those houses were designed to attract the part of the population with higher incomes who wanted to leave the city center of Dresden and live in a quieter and cleaner environment. About 2,000 people moved from Dresden to Kesselsdorf during the 1990s. The housing offer was created after surveys conducted by the private initiative to know how many people from the city would like to move outside Dresden, resulting in a 75% of those surveyed. The new buildings did not match with the rural environment of single houses style, since they contained many floors and the capacity to house several families. In the last years, people from the surroundings moved back to Dresden to get better access to their work places, education and leisure and cultural offers, as well as to better infrastructure. This process is the so called “re-urbanization” of the city.

In between, we also could pass through Moritzburg, a community in the city of Meissen, near Dresden, which maintains a baroque Schloss (palace/castle) that started to be built in the 16th century and served as a hunting lodge for members of the nobility of Saxony, including Augustus the Strong in the 18th century.

On the was back to CIPSEM, we had finally the great pleasure of visiting the District of Hellerau, part of the city of Dresden, in which the second oldest Garden City of Germany is located. The Garden City concept was initiated at the end of the 19th century in the UK as a method of urban planning. The development of this concept in Hellerau took place by the hand of Karl Schmidt-Hellerau, a businessman who moved his furniture manufactory from the center of the city to the outskirts in the first years of the 20th century. The city was completely planned and had the purpose of providing better conditions of life for the manufactory’s employees, allowing them to inhabit in single houses with small gardens in the yards. The urban complex includes the houses, a central market, the industry and its administrative offices and even a theater. The place is still visited nowadays, mainly by architecture students and specialists because of the attractiveness of the complex from the sight of the urban planning and the outside look of the buildings.

Report by Rocío Grommeck (Paraguay); photographs by Rocío Grommeck (Paraguay), Binod Gurung (Nepal), Dulip Somirathna (Sri Lanka)

Sustainable transport action day

This year, the classes on sustainable transportation coincided nicely with a Sustainable Transportation Action Day at TU Dresden. A chance not to be missed.

Treating polluted soils

As a follow-up to the remediation classes with Dr. Axel Fischer of TU Dresden we got to visit the soil treatment plant operated by Bauer Environment. There we were welcomed by Dr. Schlenker, himself a UNEP-course alumni of the 1991 class, when there was still a German student in the group. There we also gained more insights into the big-scale remediation operations on long-term industrial sites in Germany.