Flemish ministers kick off the first of two ecopassages in Limburg

Today, Flemish ministers of mobility and public works Lydia Peeters and of environment Zuhal Demir together put the shovel in the ground for the 'Waaltjesbos ecoduct', a 60-meter-wide ecoduct over the N71 in Lommel. The ecoduct is the first of two ecopassages that Jan De Nul Group will build at the request of 'De Werkvennootschap'. Another ecovalley will be constructed under the N76 in Oudsbergen in early 2024.

Flanders is fully committed to the construction of defragmentation measures, such as wildlife fencing, ecoducts, ecotunnels and passages,... By 'defragmenting' Flanders wants to reconnect important nature areas along regional roads and highways. This goes for Lommel and Oudsbergen as well.

The goal is to start construction for both ecopassages as soon as possible. For both ecoduct Waaltjesbos along the N71 and ecovallei Zwartberg along the N76, the environmental permits have been granted and the works can start at the end of this year or early next year.

Minister Lydia Peeters: “Ecology is important in Flanders. Where we execute new and large infrastructure projects, we always help to provide an integrated ecological story. We also build ecofences or ecoducts and other measures together with other policy areas that can immediately realize big gains in the field. Further rollout of these defragmentation measures should also prevent dangerous traffic situations with crossing wildlife. This way we also reduce injury accidents on our roads.”

Minister Zuhal Demir: “To increase the quality of Flanders' fragmented nature, we need to invest in nature links. These promote the survival of several vulnerable species and make their potential habitats more accessible. With the Flemish Action Program on Ecological Defragmentation, we tackle this in a structured way and the results of this are beginning to become visible in the field. Besides the ecovalley with co-use under the N771 at Bergerven (Dilsen-Stokkem), the wildlife detection system along the N76 in Oudsbergen, the ecoduct in the Hallerbos and 2 roadside bridges along the E40 in Bertem and along the E17 in Waasmunster (with the first hop over in Flanders!), the works on 2 ecobridges in Limburg are starting now.”

Thanks to funding from the European Union (NextGenerationEU) in the framework of the Flemish resilience project VV105 (defragmenting Flemish landscape), these projects can be accelerated.

The ecoduct in Lommel

The ecoduct, adjacent to the Waaltjesbos, provides an important connection function between other forest cores due to its central location between Kattenbos, Pijnven and the Lommel Sahara and Blekerheide.

The N71 is a barrier to several species there today. Therefore, the ecoduct will be equipped with a wet zone, a dry zone and a transition zone. This is ecologically the best way to ensure that as many species as possible can and will use it.

The ecovalley in Oudsbergen

This ecovalley will arise south of the slag heap of Zwartberg on the N76 in Oudsbergen. The N76 will be placed on pillars, under which the landscape can pass. The southern slopes here have a warm microclimate, which is important for the local flora and fauna. The ecovalley also connects to already placed ecofences from the industrial zone in Genk to Gestelstraat in Oudsbergen, increasing efficiency.

Ecoduct Waaltjesbos in Lommel