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Opponents block idea of breaching dike with public opinion

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

THE HAGUE – Dutch transportation infrastructure projects keep running into opposition from environmental and nature preservation activists who have repeatedly appealed decisions based on international treaties to which the government is a signatory and on a range of laws, policies and regulations. Case in point is the controversy over the Dutch commitment to dredge the West Scheldt shipping channel to accommodate larger Antwerp port bound freighters. Dutch and the Belgian authorities signed a treaty which includes a form of so-called nature compensation, compelling the parties to return agricultural land to ‘nature.’ The public in the Province of Zeeland strenuously opposes the idea of breaching any dikes, prompting Zeeland-born Premier J.P. Balkenende to look for an alternative form of compensation. The highest court, the Council of State, recently squashed that option, halting the project. The Belgians have made the most out of this administrative wrangling, claiming that an international treaty ought not to be broken. Balkenende assured the Belgians that the project will proceed but must first meet the legal criteria, possibly flooding a polder in a province where thousands have perished on account of dikes that were breached in heavy storms. A similar political quandary exists in the file of the Amsterdam International Airport Schiphol. The airport was give an annual ceiling of 510,000 ‘flight movements’ which in times of economic prosperity could be reached within five years. The new reality has created a longer time span but that has not stopped the political pot from boiling. Transportation minister Camiel Eurlings has sidelined the controversy by commissioning retired minister Hans Alders to study Schiphol’s future.