King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands saw first hand a prime example of river rewilding during his visit today to Nijmegen, EU Green Capital 2018. The King was given a guided walk of the River Waal floodplain by Frans Schepers, Managing Director of Rewilding Europe, and Professor Hans de Kroon of the Institute for Water and Wetland Research at Nijmegen’s Radboud University, learning how river restoration has brought a wide range of benefits to the Gelderse Poort area.
With a strong background in water management and related issues, the King was very interested to learn more about the beneficial restoration work carried out in the area over the last 25 years.
The restoration of the River Waal in Nijmegen in the Netherlands is a showcase for contemporary rewilding. The Gelderse Poort project, which has provided more space for the river and led to its ecological recovery, has not only made use of nature as an ally in reducing the damage caused by flooding, but enhanced the quality of life of people residing, working and playing here. As such, the Gelderse Poort is now a role model for the restoration of other rivers in Europe, with both people and nature benefitting from smart design and management.
During the guided walk, King Willem-Alexander saw how creating space for the Waal, combined with the comeback of wilder nature, has created a more attractive and safer landscape for the residents of Nijmegen and upstream and downstream municipalities.
With its unique location on the Waal, and new flood channels such as the Spiegelwaal and the Stadswaard, Nijmegen offers interesting lessons and inspiration for other European cities. Dating back to 1986, a vision for the Dutch river area (“Plan Stork”) provided a framework for this approach, which is now being applied on an extensive scale along Dutch rivers as part of the “Room for the Rivers” programme.
Talking to the King, Frans Schepers expressed his view that the Dutch water sector, renowned across the world for its expertise in water management, should export far more insight and knowledge regarding nature-based solutions.
“As a pioneer in this area for over 30 years, the Netherlands can and must apply these modern insights on river and floodplain restoration to other deltas and river systems across Europe and the world,” says Schepers. “Far too frequently traditional and technocratic solutions still dominate, to the detriment of nature, wildlife, landscape and people.”
Professor de Kroon from the Institute for Water and Wetland Research at Radboud University in Nijmegen re-emphasised the need for a more integrated approach in landscape restoration, using such progressive approaches to wetland and river restoration.
As the European Green Capital for 2018, Nijmegen is the first Dutch city to hold the title, following in the footsteps of cities such as Copenhagen, Bristol, Ljubljana and Essen. Rewilding Europe’s central office is located in the Campus of Nijmegen Radboud University.
An initiative of the European Commission, the European Green Capital Award is presented every year to a European city that leads the way in sustainability, thereby inspiring other cities. Oslo will be the EU Green Capital 2019, with Lisbon following in 2020.