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© Billion Arts
This week, WWF, in collaboration with eleven other organizations, published a statement entitled “Space for Living Rivers.” the message? There is still room for more nature in our river area. More specifically, according to them, another 33,500 hectares of nature could be added along the floodplain. It is an area the size of the city of Rotterdam. Bas Roels, Dutch Delta and River Advisor from WWF, walks with us along the Vaal River near Heyselt.
Room for the river
The slogan “space for the river” is not new. Since 1992, WWF has been advocating for more nature along rivers under this heading. They hope to improve water safety and quality of life along the rivers. This applies to the Maas, Rhine, Waal and Issel. To ensure the navigability of these rivers and the large peak discharges we can expect due to climate change, the Rijkswaterstaat has been creating more water space in recent years. “This has been at the expense of riverine forests that have returned as a result of the river space programme,” says WWF.
More riparian nature could benefit species such as speedwell, black poplar, cypress tree (and the cypress caterpillar that lives on it), river darter, barbel, river lamprey, white-tailed eagle, beaver and river otters. Not only that, people also benefit. About 7 to 8 million people live in the cities along our rivers. They will immediately benefit from a more entertaining nature in their living environment, something people seem to increasingly need since the coronavirus.
Bass Rolls and Hermine Frogdenhill
© Billion Arts
Currently, about a third of the river bed is used for agriculture. Part of it is dedicated to traditional dairy farming, but part of it is also applied to agricultural nature management. This means that the farmer and nature work together. “Floodplain grazing creates grass-rich pastures, making them ideal for skylarks,” explains Hermann Frogdenhill, director of the Riverland Collective.
According to the statement, this is not enough. The biodiversity of the so-called new nature is still 20 times higher than in agricultural nature management, as can be read in the statement. “In places where space is needed for side channels, low-energy marshes and riparian forests, cooperation with farmers is less straightforward. This is where the land will change its destination, with additional private law agreements.” These private law agreements would mean that farmers would also manage the new nature for a fee. “For example, a farmer monitors such a riverside forest. This requires good regulations and guidance from the government, which we believe is possible.”
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