Hedwige- en Prosperpolder

A story of give and take: The Hedwigepolder and prosperpolder

Just a stone's throw from the Port of Antwerp are the Dutch Hedwigepolder and the Belgian Prosperpolder. These polders were built mid-19th and early 20th century and now the time has come to give them back to the Scheldt, so that nature can once again have free rein.

The project was named Realisation of estuarine nature in Hedwigepolder and Prosperpolder. In short: together with our partners we will de-polderise the polders and redevelop the area into an estuary where nature will dominate. This de-polderisation is part of the Sigma Plan, a project of the Flemish government to reduce the risk of flooding around the Scheldt and its tributaries. The project is commissioned and coordinated by De Vlaamse Waterweg.

For this realisation, we are building a new flood defence system on Dutch territory, restoring the original creeks to their former glory and constructing five breeding islands. Once all this has been completed, we will demolish the existing flood defences so that the Scheldt can flood the area again and nature can develop.

A total of 600 hectares of polders will be returned to nature. In other words, The Scheldt will gain a great deal of flooding space. Gradually new mudflats and salt marshes will form, valuable tidal nature will return and the habitat of rare birds, plants and animals will remain protected. The ultimate goal? That in a few years' time the area might look just like the nearby land of Saeftinghe.

The Hedwige-Prosperpolder Living Lab

The fact that the old flood defences will be demolished gives researchers the opportunity to put these dykes to the test. Literally. Dykes protect us from flooding, but how long will they hold, now that the sea level is rising as a result of climate change and floods caused by super storms are occurring more frequently?  

A group of organisations from various countries is investigating this as part of the Polder2Cs project, turning the Hedwige-Prosperpolder into a living laboratory. During the tests the dykes are flooded with thousands of cubic metres of water. The researchers examine the impact of this water mass on the dyke, the grasses and the substrate. Belgian television came by and made this news report.

In short: a tale of give and take. On the one hand, the Scheldt is given more flooding space so that nature can once again flourish, and on the other hand, researchers are gathering invaluable knowledge in the field of sustainable coastal protection.