“‘This is what a river should look like’: Dutch rewilding project turns back the clock 500 years“ by Phoebe Weston of The Guardian reveals an interesting co-investment in making rivers run wild again. The reasons – man-influenced and worsened flooding and chemical run-off from farms are harmful to all concerned.
Here are few salient paragraphs, but I encourage you to read the article below.
“Frans Schepers, managing director of Rewilding Europe, who was leading the largest river-restoration project in Europe, believes radical river restoration projects should be taken more seriously. ‘People are not used to looking at green infrastructure in the way they look at other “hard” infrastructure like roads, railways and waterways. But this [type of project] is also for the common good,’ he says...
Crisis point in the Netherlands arrived decades ago after a series of destructive floods in the 80s and 90s. Dead pigs were found stuck in trees as livestock that couldn’t be moved away fast enough drowned in high waters. Thriving fishing communities had died out and rivers had become a threat to people. Momentum to radically overhaul them started building. The planning phase for the Border Meuse began in 1990, with work starting in 2007 and due to finish in 2027.
‘Rivers should be biodiversity hotspots but all over the world they are being damaged by human activity and slurry and pesticides runoff from farms. A key part of Border Meuse has been separating nature and agriculture by buying out farms along two river catchments and returning them to a natural state. Some farmers opposed being moved, but most were struggling to farm because of the flooding and were generously compensated. Farmers have moved away from hundreds of kilometres of Dutch rivers where flood protection and ecological restoration are priorities,’ says Schepers.
The €550m project is being paid for mainly by companies wanting to extract sand and gravel from the riverbed, which has helped widen the river and lower riverbanks and so expand the floodplain. Because of the involvement of industry, Border Meuse was the only large river restoration project that wasn’t withdrawn during the 2008 financial crash. Today, it attracts two million visitors a year, bringing in about €1bn of revenue to the Meuse region.
Here in the US, past efforts to straighten rivers have been destructive to the environment, especially around the Mississippi River basin and we have been losing land at a rapid rate. The solution was to help nature get back to what it was and stop trying to influence it so much. In Steven Solomon’s book “Water” he notes the Egyptians tried to control the Nile for centuries, but nature would bite them in the fanny to show who was boss with extra silt deposits that ruined crops and the water.
Solomon’s book is even more relevant today with our global and US water crisis, which has been made even worse by climate change. Competing interests in river and other waters have led to more evaporation and pose grave concerns to people via hydration and food irrigation. If we do not address these now (and we are already late), the livelihoods of many people will be altered.