Controversy over Hedwigepolder

Politicians and also TU scientists have opposite views as to whether the Hedwigepolder, close to the border with Belgium, should be flooded partially, fully or not at all.


During the last decade, few subjects were as heavily debated as the Hedwigepolder. In 2005 it was decided that this part in the province of Zeeland should be flooded in order to create space for nature. This was necessary because the Western Scheldt, the gateway to the port of Antwerp, was deepened to allow large cargo ships to reach the harbour, which changed the underwater life dramatically. Consequently, it was decided to enhance the estuary – coastal waters connected to a river and open sea – by flooding the Hedwigepolder as compensation.

The Netherlands and Flanders signed an agreement, with Flanders paying a large part of the costs. However, residents of Zeeland strongly oppose the plan, because it puts a beloved part of their province under water. A new plan was made to flood a smaller area along the Western Scheldt of the Hedwigepolder and two other areas along the Western Scheldt. This issue was recently discussed in the Dutch Parliament. “If we look at the current Dutch and European environmental and law legislation, putting the whole of the Hedwigepolder under water is the best solution for creating an estuary. This will exactly create what needs to be created, an intertidal area, rich in ecosystem services,” says professor of hydraulic engineering, Marcel Stive (Civil Engineering and Geosciences).

“It’s actually a horrible plan and creates vicious nature,” says professor of structural integrity and engineering mechanics, Jaap Schijve (Aerospace Engineering), who was born in Zeeland. “The water of the Western Scheldt is polluted. A study made in 2009 by toxicologist Dr Cor Scheele shows that the estuary will be filthy. The water will bring waste as sediment to the polder.”

Prof. Stive however does not believe that this should be a reason to reject the solution: “It goes without saying that the water will be a bit polluted. But in the last decades the water in our rivers and estuaries has become cleaner.”

So far a final decision has not been made. Last Saturday, the Dutch coalition cabinet fell, and it is expected that a decision will be made after the new elections. “We therefore still hope that an alternative plan is chosen in order to save the Hedwigepolder,” says Prof. Schijve. “In the agreement between Belgium and the Netherlands, it states that alternatives could be looked into.”

Senior advisor at Oranjewoud, Geert Roovers, does not think that this will happen. The Hedwigepolder is one of the case studies for his dissertation on decision-making regarding plans for rivers at the faculty of Technology, Policy and Management. “New plans for rivers like the Rhine and IJssel show that a political decision is made relatively fast,” Roovers explains. “After that local parties usually oppose the decision, but this opposition only slows the decision making down. It does not cancel it. Therefore, I expect that the Hedwigepolder will be put under water.”
Roovers states that there are no alternatives, because there is an agreement about a system approach in which the estuary plays a crucial role and can only be created at the Hedwigepolder.

Prof. Stive: “Or we should change the way nature is compensated in the Netherlands. At the moment it is necessary to replace the removed nature with the same kind of nature. There should be a discussion about whether we should keep this policy.” 

13 april 2015 14.10


Desgevraagd Een Airbus A320 van de Duitse vliegmaatschappij Germanwings stortte 24 maart neer in de Franse Alpen. Waarschijnlijke oorzaak: een suïcidale co-piloot. Tegen zulke gevaren kan de luchtvaartindustrie weinig doen. Of wel?
30 maart 2015 00.44


Amerikaanse en Singaporese onderzoekers lieten een kever alle hoeken van hun laboratorium zien. Ze hadden het diertje radiografisch bestuurbaar gemaakt.

16 maart 2015 00.05


Desgevraagd In het rapport over de Groningse aardbevingen verwijt de Onderzoeksraad voor Veiligheid alle betrokken partijen dat ze te weinig oog hadden voor de veiligheid van de bewoners. Waarom heeft de TU zich niet laten horen?
23 februari 2015 00.43


Desgevraagd Deze hele week rijdt er geen trein tussen Rotterdam en Den Haag. De omschakeling van bovengronds naar ondergronds spoor in Delft duurt van 22 tot en met 27 februari. Waarom eigenlijk zo lang?

09 februari 2015 00.20


Desgevraagd De offshore sector zit in zwaar weer, meldde de Volkskrant vorige week. Vanwege de lage olieprijs moet de sector bezuinigen en dat zou ten koste gaan van de veiligheid op boorplatforms. Wat voor rampen staan ons te wachten?
26 januari 2015 00.07


Desgevraagd Het KNAW trekt ten strijde tegen biobrandstoffen. Deze zouden nauwelijks leiden tot verminderde CO2-uitstoot.