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The first International Scheldt Week

The first International Scheldt Week took place from 15 to 22 May. The participants could enjoy a broad range of activities from the source to the estuary of the Scheldt River. The high attendance made the Scheldt and its tributaries better known with the public.

The Scheldt Week started with ‘Bike around the Dyle River’. This cycling discovery tour was organised by the Flemish Environment Agency in the framework of the ScaldWIN project. For this event a large number of partners from the Flemish and the Walloon region joined forces in an unique way. Almost 100 cyclists enjoyed the wonderful route at the border of Flanders and Wallonia in the Dyle river valley. They got the opportunity to learn about the different aspects of river ecosystem development and the fauna and flora of the Dyle river valley. From the watchtower in the nature reserve Grootbroek an insight was gained on the bird species that feel at home here. At the Pécrot lake beavers have been building there fort since over 20 years.Photo 1: Bike around the Dyle RiverThe presence of beavers in this region came as a surprise for many. Apart from the guided tour the participants could also enjoy traditional Belgian fries at the water treatment plant in Florival. Children even built there very own wasterwater treatment plant here. The cycling enthusiasts chose for a cobblestone climb towards the fish passage at Terlanen. The family route let the participants directly to the Doode Bemde. In this wetland the Dyle river can go her natural course en flood the surrounding area when the water is high. At the elementary school of Sint-Joris-Weert the award ceremony of the discovery tour brought the day to a conclusion.

The sportive biker had a new opportunity the week after. On Saturday the 21st of May Coordination Senne and Contrat de Rivière Senne invited interested people for a cycling discovery to the estuary of the Senne.Photo 2: The estuary of the Senne
The participants followed the river from the Avenue du Port in Brussels till the estuary in the Dyle near Mechelen. On the return on the boat the water quality of the Senne en the Senne channel as well as the water quantity in the Senne basin were explained.
The bicycle trip went along the Buda Bridge in Brussels, near the wastewater treatment plant Brussels North that was inaugurated in 2007. The quality of the water in the Senne basin has remarkably improved after the start up of the treatment plant.

Photo 3: The Port Centre LilloDuring the Scheldt Week the Port Centre Lillo welcomed a couple hundred visitors each day. The centre tells the story of the port in its different aspects: economic development, transport, ecology, etc. The Scheldt has a central place in each one of these stories. To show this to the visitors the Port Centre developed the ‘Digital Scheldt’. The storylines on economy, natural development, access and safety of the Scheldt-estuary were all integrated in this multimedia tool. The Port Centre uses state of the art techniques to present the different functions of the Scheldt River in a visually attractive and educational way. To realise this cooperation was set up with a huge number of partners across the borders. The Port Centre takes her visitors on a discovery tour in the harbour. Therefore a team of over 70 guides with each their own expertise works for the centre.

Photo 4: The Verdronken land van SaeftingheIn the last weekend of the Scheldt week the Zeeuwse Landschap welcomed walkers and adventurous people to discover the Verdronken land van Saeftinghe together with a guide. The adventurous walking tour on Sunday was even organised twice due to the large number of subscriptions. The participants came from France, Belgium and the Netherlands. All the inhabitants of the river basin district where thus represented. The participants got served a three hour long challenging route during and a good pair of Wellingtons came in handy. The origins of this area are very interesting. The water reclaimed the area on the polder land in the 16th century after a series of floods. During the Eighty Years’ War the Dutch troops destroyed the last dikes that had been left intact. Later the dikes were partially rebuilt. Eventually an area of over 3500 hectares remained. The Verdronken Land van Saeftinghe is now the largest brackish water tidal area in Western Europe. The brackish water has created a unique habitat. During the tour the nests of the herring gulls could be observed.

Adjacent to this area also in Flanders huge works are being executed to create a tidal area. By removing the polders of the Hedwige-Prosper polder an area of 465 hectares of tidal flats and tidal marshes will be created. This unique landscape is a great habitat for a lot of plants and animals. It is expected that seals will settle here in the near future. The area will also serve as a flooding area. The works are part of the adapted Sigmaplan that focuses on the environment besides the safety aspect. On Sunday 22nd of May all those who were interested could get to know more on the project during the Open Construction Site Day organised by Waterways and Sea Canal and the Agency for Nature and Forestry. A couple of hundred participants were informed on the project in the exhibition area of the information centre. From the crane the visitors could oversee the entire area. Also the nature enthusiasts were not forgotten. The guides of Natuurpunt lead them with their bikes along the banks and made them discover the beauties of nature that are hidden in the reed-land.

Photo 5: The artists of PratoIn France Escaut-Vivant put together a rich program for the entire week. Bike tours, walks, excursions, conferences and boat tours introduced the Scheldt River to the local inhabitants  in a large number of villages. On Saturday a boat tour left from Fresnes-sur-Escaut for a trip on the Scheldt. Those who went on board could enjoy an interesting story on the ecology of the river told by an experienced guide. Moreover, artists of Prato performed a humoristic spectacle on board. In the evening the festivities were prolonged with music and dance in the nearby Condé-sur-l’Escaut.