As a waterway, the Scheldt is a lifeline of the Flemish economy. The Sigma Plan has an eye for this economic function but also for the quality of life of the agricultural enterprises and other businesses along its banks.
Economic role of the Scheldt
As one of the most heavily travelled rivers in Europe, the Scheldt plays a prominent economic role. Every year, tons of goods are transported along this major shipping route, to and from the ports of Antwerp, Vlissingen, Terneuzen, Ghent and even Brussels. The Scheldt connects Flanders and the Netherlands with France via the Lys and the Upper Scheldt. Via Antwerp, ships can sail eastwards up the Albert Canal, to the Meuse basin and further on. Numerous companies are located in the ports and on the river banks of the Scheldt. They employ tens of thousands of people and are crucial for the entire Flanders economy. So it is easy to see why access to the Scheldt is such an important aspect of the Sigma Plan.
Terraces and restaurants along the towpath, bicycle rental companies, boat trips … The hospitality industry and service companies throughout the Scheldt Valley also benefit from the assets of the Flemish tidal rivers.
Local associations and town councils help develop a wide range of leisure facilities. And the farmers also contribute to tourism projects. Think, for example, of a farm shop selling artisanal products, guided farm visits, a bed and breakfast …
The implementation of the Sigma Plan will result in a loss of agricultural land in some areas. That is why we have worked out ‘flanking’ measures to support the affected farmers.
In other areas, farming remains possible, or the farmers help conserve the Sigma Plan areas. In consultation with the farmers' organisations and with the local farmers themselves, we continue to search for the most sustainable solutions.
Local farmers help with the conversion of the areas in various Sigma Projects. The wetlands of the Polders of Kruibeke and the Kalkense Meersen along the Scheldt and in Weymeerbroek and Bulbierbroek along the river Durme are examples of these successful partnerships.