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Improved water management

Because there has been some concern in Flanders that the expansion of the Zwin may be accompanied by risk of salinisation of the ground and surface water, in Flanders a framework agreement was established under the chairmanship of the governor of West-Flanders. The aim of this agreement is to find an integrated way to improve the water management in the Oostkustpolder, in order to prevent problems of salinisation, flood damage and drought. The framework agreement was established between all of the parties involved: the competent ministers, the Vlaamse Milieumaatschappij (Flemish Environmental Association), the Agency for Nature and Forests, the Agency for Maritime and Coastal Services, the Vlaamse Landmaatschappij (Flemish Land Agency), the Province of West-Flanders, the city of Knokke-Heist and the Oostkustpolder. The agreement clarifies the division of labour and responsibility, and which aspects will be carried out and financed by whom.

For the water management, the framework agreement stipulates that in the future, the Zwinnevaart-Isabellavaart will once again be able to drain through the Zwin as was the case in the past. To this end, the area around the Zwinnevaart-Isabellevaart will be reorganised by the Vlaamse Milieumaatschappij, in terms of landscape and ecology.

In addition, a new, fish-friendly pump system will be provided at the level of the Zwin. In collaboration with Aquafin, further efforts will be made towards the general improvement of water quality.

The implementation of the framework agreement will take place via the land development project Zwinpolders. Via this joint project that is being coordinated by the VLM, the partners in the vicinity of the Zwin will also invest in new walking, cycling and equestrian routes, the restoration of heritage and nature (forts, dikes, inlets, grasslands) and visitor reception (the former water purification site). The project will be presented to the Flemish government for approval in the spring of 2015. The VLM hopes to be able to begin work in 2016-2017 (www.vlm.be).

On the Dutch side, an infiltration and transport sewer at the foot of the new dike will collect infiltration water from the adjacent land. Is consultation with the various owners of the land, additional measures will also be taken such as installing drainage, digging canals and raising a number of low-lying areas.