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Environmental Projects in Netherlands and Belgium Posted by on Jul 4, 2018 in Geography

One of the many things I like about living in the Netherlands is the care given to the environment. This care is for a variety of areas of the environment including protected areas, wildlife as well as pets. There are many projects throughout the country that have struck me as echt fantastisch and in this post, I want to cover just three of these projects.

Photo taken by David van der Mark found in Flickr.com with license CC BY-SA 2.0

Ecoduct Kikbeek

My first drive from Brussels Airport to my little town of Beek in Limburg made quite an impact. It was on this drive that I realized learning Dutch would be quite a challenge (you can read about my struggle with the sound ui in this post). During this same drive, I saw my first ever ecoduct or dierenviaduct between Genk and Maasmechelen in Belgium, and I was truly amazed! I have a profound love for animals, and making a path to keep the animals (and cars) safe seemed like a very good solution. According to Paradijs Vogels Magazine, there are 66 ecoducten in the Netherlands. The ecoduct is basically a bridge over the highway or railroad that connects the natural area from one side to the other. This allows animals to move freely without running the risk of crossing the highway keeping everyone safe.

The downside to ecoducten is the cost. Each one costs between 2 and 8 million euros, and that is a high price for any country. There are arguments that the number of animals that use the bridge is low compared to the cost, but it seems the real problem is the lack of oversight to the benefits. This article by NRC.nl states:

Maar biologen vinden de situatie niet ‘simpel’. Zoals Hans-Peter Koelewijn, die DNA-onderzoek uitvoerde bij edelherten op de Veluwe: “Ecoducten kunnen werken, maar toon dat dan eens een keer goed aan. Er is geen of nauwelijks aandacht voor gerichte monitoring, alleen maar voor het aanleggen.” Of ecoloog Edgar van der Grift van instituut Alterra, onderzoeker van wildviaducten: “Dragen de ecoducten bij aan het in stand houden van diersoorten? Dat weten we niet.” 

Ecoducten are not exclusive to this area of the world. There are different types of bridges and animals passes such as a schilpad route under the railroad tracks in Japan, a tunnel for penguins in New Zealand, and a touwenbrug for birds in Australia. You can read more about these tunnels and bridges in the Paradijs Vogels Magazine.

The following video is from a year ago, but it presents why the region of Gelderland wanted two new ecoducten built.

Greenest Transferium in Den Bosch

When it comes to parking structures, we all can safely assume that these are full of steel, concrete and nothing of interest. In Den Bosch, however, a new car park connecting drivers to public transport has become the greenest car park in the Netherlands because it is fully powered by solar energy, and has extended the natural areas to the car park giving insects and small animals a continuation of their natural habitat. The website of the city of Den Bosch says the following about the animal protection aspect of this car park:

Waar moeten bijenhotels, vogelhuizen en vleermuiskasten aan voldoen als ze komen te hangen aan het nieuwe P+R transferium Deutersestraat? Het antwoord op deze vraag zochten Milieu-leerlingen van het Helicon MBO uit. Om ervoor de zorgen dat ook kleine dieren hun plekje weten te vinden rond het transferium riepen we de hulp van Helicon-leerlingen in. Zij schreven niet alleen het adviesrapport maar leverden ook bouwtekeningen. Studenten van het Koning Willem I College bouwden er vogelhuizen, vleermuiskasten en bijenhotels van. Het hout dat de leerlingen van het KWIC gebruikten is onder andere van bomen die zijn gekapt voor de bouw van het transferium. Nadat ze zijn gekapt zijn ze geschonken aan Stichting Stadshout Den Bosch. 

The construction of this car park also took into consideration recycled material and gave students the opportunity to learn while helping. The following video shows how the different “animal hotels” were made.

Plastic-Cleaning Dogs

This last project is earth friendly with canine help! Alex van Eck, an ICT manager in the Netherlands, is also an avid nature walker. After a trip to Curaçao, he realized the gravity of plastic littering on our oceans.  He set out to train his dog Joy, a Labrador, to pick up any plastic bottles during their walk. With this activity, both Alex and Joy are making their dent in plastic waste while at the same time stimulating Joy’s brain. Joy even has a backpack where they hold all the plastic bottles that are later disposed of properly.

Alex said the following for an article in the Volkskrant:

‘Als je alleen afval opruimt, voel je je zo’n boomknuffelaar op geitenwollen sokken. Samen met je hond is het een leuk spel, dat ook nog eens de aandacht trekt van mensen die ik tegenkom’, zegt Van Eck. Zo hoopt hij andere hondenbezitters te inspireren zijn voorbeeld te volgen. Zijn oudste zoon maakte het Instagramaccount @enjoycleaningup. De eerste hondenbezitter die reageerde en liet weten hetzelfde te gaan doen, woont in het Amerikaanse Texas, vertelt Van Eck. De ict-manager is een samenwerkingsverband aangegaan met de hondenscholen van Martin Gaus, waar nu 120 Nederlandse hondenbezitters hun huisdier laten trainen in de afvaljacht.

What is interesting about this project is that it not only helps the environment but also has a very conscious animal-friendly background. In the Netherlands, a good portion of people who get a dog follow a puppycursus where they learn to stimulate their dog through games and activities. There are also many organizations that protect animals such as the dierenbeschermingscentrum, the dierenpolitie and the dierenambulance. You can read more about these organizations on a previous post I wrote.

There are other people with similar cleaning projects. The following video tells the story of a man who taught his dog to clean, but was fined by the city council for having the dog without a leash during the clean up walks.

What other environment-friendly projects do you know about?

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About the Author:Karoly G Molina

Since I was a little girl, I was fascinated with languages and writing. I speak English, Spanish, Italian, Dutch and a little bit of French. I am a writer, reader, language teacher, traveler, and a food lover! I now live in The Netherlands with my husband Riccardo, our cat Mona, and our dog Lisa, and the experience has been phenomenal. The Dutch culture is an exciting sometimes topsy-turvy world that I am happily exploring!


  1. Adam Muyt:

    Fascinating article Karoly, thanks.
    I work in parks and bushland management in Australia and we tend to take our natural areas and assets for granted here. We could learn something from the Netherlands, where so many people appear to value nature and make an effort to conserve it.

    • Karoly G Molina:

      @Adam Muyt Hi Adam, I think all countries would benefit from each other’s ideas on protecting our environment. I can imagine that in the Netherlands it is a lot easier given that it is a small country (less to take care of), something that in Australia or the U.S. would be a lot more complicated. Thank you for your comment!