Opinion please – Flemish feud

The Flemish are furious. Contrary to earlier agreements the Dutch are not deepening the sea lane in the Dutch section of the Westerschelde.

The Scheldt Treaty, signed in 2005, included a provision to compensate for the environmental damage by returning a piece of reclaimed land, the Hedwige polder, to the sea.

But last April the Dutch government opted out of this provision; instead, extra shoals would be created as compensation for the environmental loss. However, a ruling by the Council of State, an advisory body to the Dutch government, ordered a halt to the dredging, deeming this new compensation measure insufficient.

“This is illustrative of the vagaries of policy processes,” says Dr Jill Slinger, a researcher at the Faculty of Technology, Policy and Management. “The treaty on the long term development of the Schelde estuary helped to restore the relationship with the Flemish. For 300 years the Westerschelde has been a source of conflict. Prime Minster Balkenende has now destroyed the trust that was developed over the past ten years. I don’t think he’s aware of the full implications of his decision.”

Slinger worked as a consultant in the development of the ‘Long Term Vision for the Scheldt Estuary’ for the ‘Technical Schelde Committee’, a committee comprising both Flemish and Dutch policymakers. She believes that somehow the farming lobby has found a voice in Balkenende: “A few years ago scientists established that depoldering in the lower reaches would hardly result in additional safety against flooding. Until then, safety had also been an argument for depoldering. Now that that this argument is gone, the farming lobby feels justified in opposing plans that affect their livelihoods.”

Prof. Dr Han Vrijling takes a completely different line of approach. “It’s a funny discussion really,” says the professor of hydraulic engineering, “because in the long run Antwerp’s position as a sea port is untenable anyway.” Vrijling argues that ultimately all sides will see that Zeebrugge, or a new harbour near Vlissingen, are much better options as sea ports.

“The same happened with Rotterdam,” he adds. “The port used to be situated in the centre of Rotterdam at De Boompjes, but gradually the port moved westward.” And to such an extent that today the port has reached the westernmost point of the Maasvlakte extension.

It’s difficult to say when the position of Antwerp as a viable sea port will be surrendered. Vrijling says it could happen tomorrow, or that the parties might simply play for time by discussing and dredging for another 50 years. Vrijling dryly adds that incidents usually force breakthroughs. A ship might run aground in Antwerp harbour, a vessel transporting toxic loads over the Westerschelde might run into trouble near the Vlissingen boulevard, or – another serious potentiality – a major storm might swell the waters and flood Antwerp, a city whose sea defences, Vrijling remarks, “are far from impressive.”

Bij de heren waren de resultaten van student civiele techniek Daan Vermeij goed voor een tweede plaats op niveau 1. Carla Velraeds, studente werktuigbouwkunde, zorgde voor de tweede medaille voor Pegasus. Zij werd eerste op niveau 3a.

Tijdens de Nederlandse studenten turncompetitie (NSTC) kunnen studenten  op hun eigen niveau turnen. Er zijn vier niveaus, waarvan niveau 1 het hoogst is. In totaal gingen er zes studenten van Pegasus richting Rotterdam. De vereniging is officieel nog maar twee maanden oud en de NSTC was de eerste competitie waar de studenten aan deelnamen.

De NSTC vindt twee keer per jaar plaats. De volgende is op 14 maart 2009 in Eindhoven. Pegasus is van plan om dan ook mee te doen. De studenten trainen nu één keer per week, maar willen vaker trainen, liefst in het sportcentrum.

Editor Redactie

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