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Kleine Nete meanders through the Olens Broek nature reserve

The re-meandering of the Kleine Nete in Herentals is a blessing for biodiversity and the rewetting of Flanders. It is part of the integral river restoration programme of the Kleine Nete and is part of the Blue Deal, the Flemish government’s plan to tackle drought and flooding. Sweco’s Waterways team was commissioned by the VMM to take care of the design, the preparation of the environmental permit and the tender dossier.

The Kleine Nete in the Olens Broek-Langendonk nature reserve has been given a major makeover. Four cut-off meanders are reconnected to the main stream of the river. Now she meanders through the landscape as usual. This ensures more variation in flow speed, more opportunities for fauna and flora, better water storage and helps to prevent the nature reserve from drying out.

Our reporter on site

Our colleague Marijn Everaert saw how one of the first Waterways projects was inaugurated: “We first received an explanation from Antwerp provincial governor Cathy Berx and some experts from VMM and ANB. Then we went to explore nature on our own. We enjoyed the autumn sun, the meandering streams and the new pedestrian bridge. We ended with a nice chat and a nice snack and drink. For many colleagues, it was a unique opportunity to see such an impressive team achievement with their own eyes. A very nice experience that leaves you wanting more!”

Drought and flooding

To make room for agricultural reclamation, the Kleine Nete in the Olens Broek nature reserve was straightened in the past. In this way, the water was drained more quickly, but this caused flooding downstream. In addition, the watercourse lost its ecological value and connection with the valley. The cut-off meanders remained in the landscape like ponds and the adjacent nature reserve suffered from desiccation.

Space for nature and recreation

In recent months, four of these meanders have been reconnected and thresholds have been placed in the original main course. This resulted in 920 m of new river, extra buffer capacity and a water level rise of about 60 cm. A new pedestrian bridge ensures that the existing walking junction route remains a continuous whole. Kayakers can now also explore the winding river instead of the former straight course.