Brussels’ river flows on the surface for the first time in 150 years

It’s often said that Brussels lacks a river.  London has the Thames, Paris the Seine, but until now Brussels has had to make do with the Charleroi Canal as its major waterway.  Of course, this hasn’t always been the case.  Brussels once boasted a magnificent waterway of its own, the River Zenne, but this was vaulted over during the 19th century in order to stem pandemics. It is then perhaps timely that for the first time in a century and a half at least part of the River Zenne will now once again flow above ground.  

The Zenne was first vaulted over in that fateful year 1867 in order to prevent epidemics and flooding.  Today, after a century and a half, the River Zenne is once again visible on the surface at a site in Haren in the City of Brussels.

The Brussels environment department believes that by uncovering the river water quality and biodiversity will benefit.  The creation of new banks will allow wildlife to flourish. Benjamin Thiébaux of the hydrographical network of the environment department says “a blue and green network in a highly industrialised area will strengthen ecological corridors.  Restoring biodiversity will also help us to meet EU objectives.”

There are economic benefits too: co-operation between the environment department and the Port of Brussels will allow Comet, a company active in the circular economy, to use the new quayside.

225 metres of new quayside have also been set out along the Brussels – Schelde Maritime Canal.  Comet will be able to use this quayside to transport at least 80,000 tons of freight by ship per year taking 7,500 trucks off the roads and reducing CO2 emissions by 1,200 tons.

“This development shows that more and more players are interested in economic developments that take account of global warming and the need to strengthen nature” says Brussels environment minister Alain Maron.  

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