In the Netherlands they say: "God created the earth, and the Dutch made Holland." Most of the country's territory is indeed man-made and literally reclaimed from the water. But during global warming, the water takes a counteroffensive, and the 170,000 city of Nijmegen on the Vaal River is subject to seasonal floods, which sometimes become catastrophic. Therefore, within the framework of the Dutch government's program "Space for a river" in Nijmegen, it was decided to carry out an engineering project to protect the city from floods.
To prevent future floods, instead of building on existing dams, they decided to move them further away from the river by widening the water spill mirror. A bypass canal is created along the northern bank of the river, which in the event of a flood will take in excess water, not letting it into the streets of the city.
The state program "Space for the river", which includes about 30 problem points throughout the Netherlands, in Nijmegen is carried out taking into account local conditions. At the initiative of the local authorities, initially a purely technical solution acquired an urban planning, socio-economic and cultural dimension. The city authorities skillfully took advantage of the necessary landscape changes for more thoughtful and profound transformations of the entire city. Taking into account urban planning and environmental factors in the implementation of the project allows you to save significant funds, simultaneously solving a wider range of problems than just preventing floods (which, of course, is important).
Thus, the island that appears during the construction of the bypass channel is supposed to be made a green zone dedicated to the leisure of the townspeople. The northern, now underdeveloped suburb of Lent, affected by the construction of the canal, it was decided to provide all the necessary infrastructure and increase its population from 8,000 to 15,000 people. The new bridges will increase the connectivity of this part of the city with the center on the opposite side of the river. The coastal industrial zones on the south side will be converted into residential and business areas.
The total cost of converting the river bed is approaching 351 million euros, however, thanks to this investment, it will be possible to prevent flood losses in the future - not to mention the proceeds from the development of Nijmegen. However, it is too early to analyze the effectiveness of the measures taken: the city transformation program is designed for 15 years, and a responsible assessment of its results can be made only some time after its completion.
Nevertheless, we can already speak of some local successes: the new island is gradually becoming a place of various urban activities, for example, sports and business: boat trips are successfully organized there. The project implementation process itself became part of the “city performance”: a large-scale construction site with a large number of equipment involved there, such as cranes and excavators, has attracted about 30,000 tourists from all over the world over 8 years.
One of the obvious successes of the project at the moment can be considered the construction of an effective dialogue between the residents of the suburb of Lent, who were affected by the construction of the bypass canal, on the one hand, and the local authorities and designers, on the other. Residents, who previously protested against resettlement from their homes, now admit that the current situation is mutually beneficial, and there is simply no losing side. This story shows that even a large-scale engineering project can take into account the interests of ordinary people. This includes both timely and complete informing of the townspeople about the upcoming changes, clarification of the advantages and disadvantages of the proposed changes, as well as identifying the most problematic issues for residents and adjusting the project taking them into account.Thus, some of the old buildings of Lenta, which fall into the canal construction zone, were moved to a new location in order to preserve the familiar living environment with recognizable landmarks.
The work on the construction of the canal is planned to be completed by the end of this year, but the question of how exactly the new island will be developed remains open.