Dutch to flood polder
Flemish minister-president Kris Peeters said he is “delighted” at a decision by the Dutch government to go ahead with returning the Hedwigepolder (pictured), in the province of Zeeland at the mouth of the Scheldt river, to the sea. The operation, known in Dutch as ontpoldering, is the last step of a treaty signed between Flanders and the Netherlands over the deepening of the Westerschelde channel between Antwerp and the open sea.
Action will fulfil the Westerschelde channel treaty between the Netherlands and Flanders
Last week, the new Dutch cabinet decided the operation could go ahead, bringing to an end a dispute between the two governments that has dragged on for more than three years. The Westerschelde lies mainly in Dutch waters but is crucial in the approach to the port of Antwerp. The two governments signed a treaty in 2005 under which the channel would be dredged at 12 important places to allow the passage of new, larger container ships.
Dredging work was suspended when environmentalists convinced the Dutch Council of State that the works would require compensatory measures to be taken for wildlife in the marshes along the waterside, which are important breeding grounds for waterfowl and harbour some rare forms of saltwater plants. It was agreed that the Hedwigepolder would be set under water to create new wetlands as compensation.
When the dredging work was completed, the Dutch refused to flood the polder due to protests from local farmers who would lose their land. Now the decision has been taken to go ahead with the agreement.