First Phase for Dutch-Flemish Nature Reserve to Complete This Year

The first phase of a plan to create a 4,000 hectare nature reserve on the Dutch-Belgian border is due to be completed at the beginning of 2015.

The Hedwige-Prosper Project, which is part of the European-funded Floodcom initiative, encompasses a cross border intertidal nature area which will join a 3600 ha existing nature reserve, Verdronken Land van Saeftinghe (Drowned Land of Saeftinghe), after completion. The scheme will also provide a significant boost for flood protection in the region by giving more space to the River Scheldt.

The Flemish phase of the project was started in 2008 and will finish in 2014. It will create an area of 170ha. So far the Flemish side of the project has acquired the land, removed houses and is now adjusting the pumping station mechanics after extensive testing. The ring dyke - that protects the inhabitants against flooding - is to be finished by the beginning of 2015. The Dutch part of the scheme will create 295ha and start in 2016 with completion in 2019.

Biodiversity in the region will be boosted by the creation of mudflats and salt marshes, making it an attractive area for hikers, cyclist and bird watchers on the ring dyke. The scheme is integrated into the ‘Sigmaplan’ which aims to protect Flanders against flooding by the River Scheldt and its tributaries.

The project has been undertaken by Waterwegen en Zeekanaal NV. Partner organisations include the Agency of Nature and Forestry, the Province of Zeeland, and the Port of Antwerp.

To create a public framework of knowledge and understanding, Waterwegen en Zeekanaal NV involves local schools and their parents, as well as nature and other local organisations. It has been driven by the desire to create a balance between ecological and economic development, community participation and flood protection.

Floodcom is a European-funded initiative involving five partners across four European countries: from the UK, Essex County Council and Chelmsford City Council; from Belgium, Waterweegen en Zeekanaal NV, in Antwerp; from France IIW, in St Omer; and in the Netherlands, the City of Breda.

Floodcom is hosting a conference, "Sharing Best Practice on Flood Alleviation", in Antwerp, Belgium on Wednesday 24th September 2014. Topics covered will include climate change, the social impact of flooding, and responses to flooding. Information about this and other aspects of the Floodcom initiative are available at www.floodcom.eu.

-ENDS-

For further information: Please contact Sue Wilcock at Trebuchet on 01473 213000 or email sue@trebuchetcreative.co.uk