Dutch agree to flood Hedwige Polder - partially

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The Dutch government has finally agreed to partially flood reclaimed land in Zeeland, the Hedwige Polder, as compensation for dredging the Westerschelde River, which leads to the Port of Antwerp.

A third of the land will be flooded, roughly 100 hectares. And another 200 hectares of reclaimed land in other polders will also be sacrificed as compensation for nature. Deputy Agriculture Minister Henk Bleker informed the European Commission and parliament of the decision on Friday.

The Netherlands had an agreement with the Flemish government in northern Belgium to flood the polder. The flooding was necessary as part of a deal to dredge the Westerschelde so that large ships could reach the Port of Antwerp. European legislation stipulates that nature has to be compensated. Huge local resistance, however, led to the Dutch attempting to back out of the deal, arousing the anger of the Belgians.

The current alternative has come about after Intensive negotiations with the European Commission. The minister my have difficulty finding a majority in parliament as the Labour Party, Green Left and Socialist Party say they will not support the deal. The Freedom Party has also said it opposes flooding the polder.

The regional Queen’s Commissioner Carla Peijs (former transport minister) strongly opposes the decision “unless it means the area will never be flooded again.”

The new plan is much more expensive than the original idea and the commissioner questions whether it can be carried out to budget. Ms Peijs predicts that Zeelanders will not cooperate with the plans. She told TROS public television, “Zeelanders are against flooding reclaimed land. It cuts through their soul. What we don’t understand in Zeeland is why we keep having to dig up bits of Zeeland to give Antwerp more room.”

(nc)

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