Restoration of a centuries-old landscape
For centuries, streams from the provinces of Limburg and Vlaams-Brabant have been meeting in the Demer delta. They form a unique and vast flood landscape. The grasslands were hayed year after year. This centuries of land use produced a unique wealth of plants and animals that is highly valued and protected on a European scale. The open, expansive landscape is an experience. An inland delta like this is almost nowhere to be found in Flanders.
But due to the straightening of streams and wood production, this age-old landscape was partly lost. Valuable grasslands were converted to commercial timber plantations or were managed too intensively. Straightened streams cause flooding downstream and desiccation in other places. This is not only bad for people, but also for nature. The risk of flooding increases in downstream residential areas. And animals that depend on water disappear.
Since ancient times, man has tried to control the water in this valley. At first, these efforts were limited to the construction of a drainage network of ditches and locally, dykes were built to limit local flooding.
Gradually, the interventions became more important. From the 17th century onwards, the watercourses of the Herk, the Velpe, the Gete and even the Demer river were re-routed in several phases to drain the water as quickly as possible, so that the valley remained relatively dry for agriculture.
Further dyke heightening, bed deepening and canalisation continued over the years. From 1975, around 90 hectares of hay meadows in the centre of Schulensbroek were excavated for the construction of the E314. This created the Schulensmeer, with a depth of up to 7m.
In order to collect the floods from the Demer, the Gete, the Velpe, the Mangelbeek and the Herk at a central location, a controlled flood area was created in both Schulensbroek (early 1980s) and Webbekomsbroek. All these large-scale interventions have changed the landscape considerably.
With LIFE Delta, we want to restore the centuries-old beauty of the region. This will be done with large-scale interventions. The valley will be restored by removing old sand deposits and clearing poplar forests that were planted in the previous century.
This will not only improve the habitats of various animal and plant species, it will also enhance the experience value and water safety for people.
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