WHY: the task
With the climate changing and the sea level rising, the sea is becoming a threat to the Flemish Coast and the hinterland. Steps to guarantee our country’s safety must be taken now. Rather than targeting those measures singularly and in the short term, an approach in connection with other issues related to the coastal areas may result in added value and can transform the safety issue into an opportunity to create a better and more attractive coast.
The Flanders Bays project combines safety with four other key pillars:
- Sustainability: the sea as an important source of sustainable energy.
- Attraction: an attractive coast for tourists and inhabitants.
- Naturalness: sufficient space for nature on the coast.
- Evolution: the coast must offer room for economic development now and in the future.
WHAT: a vision on a sustainable future
In the course of the past centuries, our coastline has receded dramatically. From a wide zone dotted with islands, it has changed into a narrow strip that requires dykes for its protection. We want to go back to the situation of a wide and soft coast, where sand in outstretched dunes, sandbanks and islands provides a natural and flexible protection zone. That wide, sandy coastal area can offer opportunities for new economic or tourist developments such as port expansions, a multifunctional island or a recreation area. Nature also fits into this scenario: sandbanks and islands may provide a new habitat for sea lions.
HOW: the strategy
Proper development of the coastal region requires a long-term vision. However, many elements are uncertain at this point: how quickly will the sea level rise? How will the economy develop? And still, the first steps must be taken shortly. For that reason, we propose a flexible approach: a long-term vision, including a few milestones (in 2020 and in 2050) at which developments can be adapted.
WHEN: projects and phasing
Ten concrete projects have been developed, serving as an inspiration for further efforts. Some of them aim at the longer term, others can be realised in the foreseeable future. They all fit within our long-term strategy, which allows for their future adaptation in accordance with changed desires and needs.
WHO: the actors
This vision is not a blueprint. It presents a number of ideas that can only find further development in consultation and collaboration with all parties involved. We therefore invite all actors involved to share their ideas. The safety of our coast is an issue that affects us all. Developing a broad vision can turn the problem into an opportunity. Particularly in economically troubled times it is extremely important that our society invests in a sustainable and safe future.