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“We will have to invest in climate adaptation: giving water space again” - Belgium

“We will have to invest in climate adaptation: giving water space again” – Belgium

The Flemish government wants to take its climate adaptation policy to a higher level this fall, writes Environment Minister Saturn Demir (N-VA). “As we return the valley to the river and nature, we are ensuring the safety of the water.”

It was Monday 12 July, the day after our Flemish holiday. I will not soon forget. Flemish Environment Agency experts have informed me that rain is imminent. Lots of precipitation. An unprecedented amount of rain, up to 100 liters of water per square meter or more, which will undoubtedly lead to flooding.

When asked if they were sure, the answer was a firm yes. They immediately demonstrated the added value of Flemish forecasting tools for non-navigable waterways. Then it was a matter of waiting to see exactly where the rains fell – calculation models were said on the border between Flanders and Wallonia – but the list of municipalities I received on Monday turned out to be very accurate.

I am very grateful that in Flanders we have so many experts and knowledge to be able to rely on forecasts of weather conditions and their consequences. This enabled us to proactively notify the Flemish Governors Crisis Services and the Federal Crisis Services, two to three days in advance. In this way preparations can be made as much as possible, because, of course, not everything is possible against the whims of Mother Nature.

However, had we not had these expectations, the drama would have been much greater in Flanders. I can therefore recommend that every region invest in such scientific tools as a complement to less complex European warning systems.

Forecasts in time allowed several steps to be taken. From controlling infrastructure such as dams and pumping stations, to removing vegetation and other obstructions from the watercourse to create maximum water area, to maximum emptying of storage ponds, which were still partially filled by other rainfall events in the area. past weeks. Every little bit helps, as it turned out later.

Unlike last week’s rain, the event as such did not come out of nowhere. Last year, constant drought, and now is the other extreme. The problem of drought and floods are two sides of the same coin. Climate change affects us seriously.

We will have to invest in climate adaptation: give water back.

This is why our policy to combat both extremisms is a priority. Our Water Policy Note, Blue Deal, Flemish Resilience Plan: They all take these investments as a priority. Because, we have to put our finger on the wound: as a society that has been greatly misunderstood, we have underestimated and neglected the importance and usefulness of green and blue in the past. There are a lot of useless roofs, and many were built in the past in water-sensitive areas. This presents us with challenges.

Studies show that the annual damage caused by river floods in our country due to climate change will reach 113 million euros. This is triple compared to the last thirty years. This means two things. Yes, efforts are needed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and not make the problem worse. Great efforts. But we will also have to adapt to a changing and irreversible climate through ambitious investments in climate adaptation. The Flemish government takes the gloves.

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Our blue deal, actually the first chapter of our plan for climate adaptation. An unprecedented plan in the fight against extremism, with investments of nearly half a billion euros, which is already being realized in this area today.

The priority is to ensure maximum water storage, preferably outside residential areas. A first step in this direction has already been taken with the construction of parking and isolator ponds in strategic locations throughout Flanders with a capacity of approximately 30 billion liters. During this tenure of office, we will also invest an additional €50 million in those locations where the need is greatest.

But the best waterproofing remains our wet nature. However, the unfortunate conclusion is that 70 percent of our wet nature has disappeared in Flanders over the past 50 years. So we have to give space to the water again, certainly in the valley areas. The river restoration projects at Communal Meuse are the best example of their success. When we return the valley to the river and nature, we ensure the safety of the water.

The best water repellent keeps our nature wet.

That is why we are also investing in flood risk management around the Demir Valley via the Sigma Plan. Using the Demer’s side branches as a buffer, allowing the Demer to meander backward, by extending the riverbed. And yes, that sometimes requires tough choices. Look at the Demervallei Spatial Implementation Plan, in which we provide 1,000 hectares of space for water and green spaces, but at the same time we must say goodbye to other functions such as housing.

It’s no coincidence that half of our investment in the Blue Deal goes to wetland and canyon projects. In the coming years, larger and smaller interventions will be carried out in the Kleine Nete Valley, Lys Valley, Itterbeek Valley, Zwarte Beek Valley, Wellemearsen District in Dender Valley, Kalkense Meersen, you name it.

It is not always easy to provide adequate buffering for all heavy rain. It was also not possible to absorb the precipitation of the last week with additional buffer basins. Stores can block many things, but not all.

Thus, individual protection measures within the flood-prone area will also be necessary. Just like making room for water to infiltrate our streets, squares, villages and cities through softening. Many cities and municipalities already exist, but many are still hesitant to jump on this bandwagon. Let the events of the past week bring them the power of change.

As a Flemish government, we are determined anyway to take climate adaptation policy to a higher level this fall with a comprehensive Flemish Climate Adaptation Scheme. One, just like the blue deal, will not only end up in a big pile of paper plans, but will also lead to tangible achievements. Because Flanders needs much more than just another paper plan in which nothing happens.

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It was Monday 12 July, the day after our Flemish holiday. I will not soon forget. Flemish Environment Agency experts have informed me that rain is imminent. Lots of precipitation. An unprecedented amount of rain, up to 100 liters of water per square meter or more, which will undoubtedly lead to flooding. When asked if they were sure, the answer was a firm yes. They immediately demonstrated the added value of Flemish forecasting tools for non-navigable waterways. Then it was a matter of waiting to see exactly where the rains fell – calculation models were said on the border between Flanders and Wallonia – but the list of municipalities I received on Monday turned out to be very accurate in the past. We have a lot of experts and knowledge so that we can rely on forecasts of weather conditions and their consequences. This enabled us to proactively notify the Flemish Governors Crisis Services and the Federal Crisis Services, two to three days in advance. In this way preparations can be made as much as possible, because, of course, not everything is possible against the whims of Mother Nature. However, had we not had these expectations, the drama would have been much greater in Flanders. I can therefore recommend that every region invest in such scientific tools as a complement to European less complex warning systems, timely forecasts have allowed several steps to be taken. From controlling infrastructure such as dams and pumping stations, to removing vegetation and other obstructions from the watercourse to create maximum water area, to maximum emptying of storage ponds, which were still partially filled by other rainfall events in the area. past weeks. Every little bit helps, as it turned out later. Unlike last week’s rain, the event was not like this out of nowhere. Last year, constant drought, and now is the other extreme. The problem of drought and floods are two sides of the same coin. Climate change affects us seriously. This is why our policy to combat both extremisms is a priority. Our Water Policy Note, Blue Deal, Flemish Resilience Plan: They all take these investments as a priority. Because, we have to put our finger on the wound: as a society that has been greatly misunderstood, we have underestimated and neglected the importance and usefulness of green and blue in the past. There are a lot of useless roofs, and many were built in the past in water-sensitive areas. This presents challenges for us, as studies show that the annual damage caused by river floods in our country due to climate change will amount to 113 million euros. This is triple compared to the last thirty years. This means two things. Yes, efforts are needed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and not make the problem worse. Great efforts. But we will also have to adapt to a changing and irreversible climate through ambitious investments in climate adaptation. The Flemish government took the gloves off, and our ‘blue deal’ attests to it, which is in fact the first chapter of our climate adaptation plan. An unprecedented plan in the fight against extremism, with investments of nearly half a billion euros, which is already being realized in this area today. The priority is to ensure maximum water storage, preferably outside residential areas. A first step in this direction has already been taken with the construction of parking and isolator ponds in strategic locations throughout Flanders with a capacity of approximately 30 billion liters. During this tenure of office, we will also invest an additional €50 million in those locations where the need is greatest. But the best waterproofing remains our wet nature. However, the unfortunate conclusion is that 70 percent of our wet nature has disappeared in Flanders over the past 50 years. So we have to give space to the water again, certainly in the valley areas. The river restoration projects at Communal Meuse are the best example of their success. When we return the valley to the river and nature, we ensure the safety of the water. That is why we are also investing in flood risk management around the Demir Valley via the Sigma Plan. Using the Demer’s side branches as a buffer, allowing the Demer to meander backward, by extending the riverbed. And yes, that sometimes requires tough choices. Look at the Demervallei Spatial Implementation Plan, in which we provide 1,000 hectares of space for water and green spaces, but at the same time we must say goodbye to other functions such as housing. It’s no coincidence that half of our investment in the Blue Deal goes to wetland and canyon projects. In the coming years, major and minor interventions will be implemented in the Kleine Nete Valley, Lys Valley, Itterbeek Valley, Zwarte Beek Valley, Wellemearsen District in Dender Valley, Kalkense Meersen, you name it, providing adequate buffering for all heavy rainfall is not clear. It was also not possible to absorb the precipitation of the last week with additional buffer basins. Stores can block many things, but not all. Thus, individual protection measures within the flood-prone area will also be necessary. Just like making room for water to infiltrate our streets, squares, villages and cities through softening. Many cities and municipalities already exist, but many are still hesitant to jump on this bandwagon. Let the events of the past week bring them the force of change. As a Flemish government, we are determined anyway to take our climate adaptation policy to a higher level this fall with a comprehensive Flemish climate adaptation plan. One, just like the blue deal, will not only end up in a big pile of paper plans, but will also lead to tangible achievements. Because Flanders needs much more than just another paper plan in which nothing happens.

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