€3m nature project will preserve Bokrijk-Kiewit ponds


Environment minister Van Den Heuvel also sets aside €2.5 million to buy more land for nature reserves

Pond complex

A nature project at the Bokrijk-Kiewit Pond Complex, between Hasselt and Genk, has been given the green light by environment minister Koen Van Den Heuvel, along with €3.3 million in funding. The aim is to strengthen natural assets in the area, an important link between nature reserves at Platwijers and De Maten.

Despite having protected status, the Bokrijk-Kiewit Pond Complex has declined in recent years. Silt needs to be removed from the ponds and pools, so that water once more circulates freely between them.

There is also a need to free up hedgerows and copses. “By these means, amongst others, the landscape can be restored,” Van Den Heuvel said.

The project area includes an existing nature reserve, Het Wik, which is known for its watery cycle tracks. Here and elsewhere the restoration work will take into account the needs of recreational visitors to the area, which is collectively known as De Wijers, or the land of 1001 ponds.

Natuurpunt tribute

Van Den Heuvel also announced this week an additional €2.5 million for the purchase of areas of outstanding natural value across Flanders. This will help conservation organisation Natuurpunt extend the reserves it protects by some 150 hectares.

The minister’s ambition is to see 1,100 hectares of Flanders classified as official nature reserves before the end of the legislature. “This is in recognition of the work that Natuurpunt’s volunteers and field teams do every day to turn these areas into pearls,” he said. “They deserve our greatest respect.”

Projects under consideration include opening up the Breeven, a 65-hectare area between Geel-Ten Aard and Kasterlee in the Kempen, which has been largely closed to the public for more than a century. The aim is to plot hiking paths through this landscape of woodland, fen and meadow so that people can once again enjoy its unique atmosphere.

Other plans focus on expanding the Turnhouts Vennengebied, the Schijnvallei nature reserve in Wijnegem, and protected land around Altenbroek castle in Voeren. A project is also foreseen at the Kluizenbos near Aalst and Affligem, made famous by author Louis Paul Boon as an “unreachable forest” near the historic Kluis Chapel.

Then there are plans to extend protected land in the Hagelands Bos in Aarschot and the Uitkerkse polder near Blankenberge.

Photo: Silt needs to be removed from the ponds and pools that make up the Bokrijk-Kiewit Pond Complex
©Courtesy Flemish Land Agency