Bemmelse Waard – Restoring former floodplains (INTERREG Sustainable Development of Floodplains)

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Bemmelse Waard – Restoring former floodplains (INTERREG Sustainable Development of Floodplains)

Factsheet: Bemmelse Waard – Restoring former floodplains (INTERREG Sustainable Development of Floodplains)

Country NL
River Name Rhine River
Site Name Bemmelse Waard – Restoring former floodplains (INTERREG Sustainable Development of Floodplains)
River Characterisation
    River typology
    Location (Lat Lon) 51.868436, 5.973816
    Altitude lowland: < 200 m
    Catchment area very large: > 10000 km2
    Geology Siliceous
    National code/
    River type name
    Hydromorphological quality elements

    Biological quality elements
    Ecosystem Services
    EU Directives
    Project size 400 ha
    Approximate costs > 1 000 000 Euros
    Status Realised
    Period of realization 2003 -2008
    Evaluation None
    Implemented by Dienst Landelijk Gebied-Regio Oost

    This webpage is currently under construction. Comments with regards to the contents or possible lack would be gratefully appreciated.
    The FORECASTER Team.

    Key features of the case study

    In the following section, background and motives of the restoration project which led to the initiation of the project are introduced.

    Drivers and pressures

    The Rhine is one of the longest and most important rivers in Europe flowing through Germany and the Netherlands. In the past, the Rhine was heavy modified to allow navigation purposes, to produce energy and/or to protect population, land against likely flooding. The work undertaken straightened the river and induced a loss natural retention area resulting in an increased risk of flooding. Flooding concerns raised among politicians, scientific, river managers etc. thus resulting in the establishment of several agreements, programmes aiming to improve water retention along the Rhine river.

    The Bemmelse Waard project is actually part of the Ooijpolder Land Consolidation Project and of the Gelderse Poort Strategic Landscaping Project (Strategisch Groen Project).

    The Ingelheim Polder project, the Hondsbroeksche Pleij project and the Bemmelse Waard project are three of the twelve projects undertaken under the European INTERREG SDF (Sustainable Development of Floodplains) cooperation project which brought together Dutch and German managers. The SDF approach was a radical break with the past philosophy encouraging the construction of “higher dikes”. The approach was then to decrease the flood risk by “creating room for the river” along the Upper and Lower Rhine. The pilot actions that are part of the SDF project all contribute to the European policy of NATURA 2000: conservation and restoration of the biodiversity in the EU.

    Global objectives

    The main aim of the INTERREG SDF project was to develop sustainable flood protection. Restoring former and existing floodplains were then foreseen to reduce flooding and at the same time to encourage the development of sustainable floodplains for multifunctional use, e.g. water retention, agriculture, nature development and recreation.

    Specific goals

    The Bemmelse Waard project aimed at getting back riverine habitats that disappeared in the main channel and to lower high-water levels.

    Site description

    Measures selection

    The project undertook to lower the level of the floodplain by means of excavation, to create a large-scale riverine nature area of approximately 270 hectares managed by the National Forest Service (Staatsbosbeheer) and to construct channels in the floodplain. Finally, expansions of marshy areas along the excavated channels were also implemented.

    Success criteria

    No success criteria set.

    Ecological response

    The construction of three types of side channels (with a different frequency of flooding) at Bemmelse Waard led to the following ecological changes:

    • The biodiversity in the side channels increased, especially rheophilic fish showed up;
    • Along the shores of the side channels, a continuous rejuvenation is going on which creates pioneer habitats again and again;
    • The newly developed floodplain with the side channels was re-colonised very quickly by aquatic species in a great variety.

    Hydromorphological response

    Most of the sediments are now sandy instead of clayey. The area is very dynamic and a high local heterogeneity exists.

    Monitoring before and after implementation of the project

    No monitoring carried

    Socio-economic aspects

    In the following section, ways of cooperation, interaction and information with partners, stakeholders and wider audience of the INTERREG SDF project are introduced as well as their related success in reaching their participation objectives.

    The INTERREG SDF project didn’t only focus on the practical approach of floodplains management but as well on the participation process which plays a key role while carrying such a project. The aim was to bring together partners knowledge on participation process to develop guidelines, tools which were tested at local level and then post-evaluated. *Learning from the experience of others was then one major focus of the SDF partners by:

    • Linking the actions in the twelve pilot locations, combining planning and implementation experiences;
    • Exchanging/transferring know-how and experience between partners at a concrete and practical level;
    • Finding common solutions for the issues addressed;
    • Engaging national, regional and local authorities and organizations, representatives of the general public, NGOs, environmentalists and the private sector at the pilot locations.


    Sustainable flood management strategies require interregional and transnational cooperation throughout the Rhine basin. For that reason, managers decided to work together in the SDF project based on close co-operation between seven key actors representing different institutions or management levels: Rijkswaterstaat-Oost Nederland (RWS-ON), Struktur- und Genehmigungsdirektion-Süd, Regierungspräsidium Karlsruhe (RPK), Dienst Landelijk Gebied- Regio Oost, Emschergenossenschaft, NABU Naturschutzstation Kranenburg, and Deichverband Bislich-Landesgrenze.

    To achieve the participation targets, the seven partners used to work together within three transnational working groups dealing with River Engineering and Navigation, Nature and Environment and Social Action and Communication. This cooperation generated great exchanges between partners improving each project. Some inputs added by the INTERREG SDF cooperation to the twelve local projects are given below:

    The results of the “Sustainable Development of Floodplains” project showed that transnational co-operation (with a good understanding and solidarity among partners) contributed to a better safety level along the Rhine, resulted in cost savings and more efficient project implementation as well as a quality improvement of developed floodplains. Pressure on the space in catchments like the Rhine is very high, so fast action and good spatial planning is needed to implement further flood alleviation and nature projects.


    Information exchange between specialists, authorities and the sectors, e.g. agriculture, citizens, nature NGOs was another focus of the SDF project. Therefore, developing and improving processes of participation (local public, contractors, land users/-owners, authorities, etc.), developing innovative contract models on cooperation between entrepreneurs, land users or -owners, competent authorities, etc. (public private partnership), etc. were also foreseen in the project.


    The SDF partners pursued different coordinated communication strategies in their pilot projects to test the effect of different instruments. They defined the following as the basic requirements for the strategies:

    • Timing: information and participation at an early stage
    • Target group: participation of key actors
    • Range: informal participation beyond the legal obligations

    The use of informal instruments, especially in the project preparation phase (such as participation or information events, etc.) is based on different “culture” or background of the nations or regions (in Germany especially on the level of “Bundesländer”, administrations or competent authorities). In addition, the “style” or “view” of the project leader and the organisation is of equal importance whether or how informal instruments are used, as well as the kind of project and the project location. The legal information duties are obligatory; the informal ones are voluntary and therefore depend on the self-image and the initiative of responsible actors. To work on public participation may influence planning measures as well in a positive as in a negative way as introduced in the following table.

    Positive and negative aspects of the public participation  (Adamczak K., Menke U., 2005)


    The following section gives an overview of cost and funding of the project.

    The SDF project invested EUR 35 million in relocating dikes, creating new polders, side channels and inlet works and developing new areas of nature. It was co-financed by the European INTERREG IIIB Programme for Flood Prevention and Water Management. One half of the project was financed by the seven partner organisations and the other half by the European Union (17, 5 millions).

    Contact person within the organization

    Rijkswaterstaat Oost-Nederland
    Ute Menke, project coordinator
    Telephone: +31 651997745

    Extra background information

    The SDF project innovated in managing the flood risk along the Rhine River by combining flood risk management with ecological rehabilitation and multi-functional land use. But the creation of a retention area is essentially different than measures in existing floodplains or new floodplains that have an open connection to the river. This has in several cases a different effect on the process of nature development and results of this process on flora and fauna species that will occur and persist. Experiences have then to be shared among projects but they are not automatically applicable in other projects. Nevertheless there are quite a lot of similarities in the problems that have to be solved, which makes a continuation and even intensifying of the co-operation on the aspect of nature development and flood protection measures very necessary.

    • The sustainability in future areas that are created for flood protection and nature development is crucial for the long term benefit of these measures. There is still a lot to learn from each other about the organisation of the management (who is responsible, who are actually executing the management activities, what costs can be expected on the longer term and how can they be reduced), the use of natural grazers, the effect of certain methods of management on the development of vegetation and based on that the consequences on discharge and salvage capacity;
    • Concept of ecological flooding deserves further research on applicability and benefits;
    • Creating a boundless ecological network that contributes perfectly to the objectives of Natura 2000, makes adjustment and co-operation between German and Dutch projects unavoidable;
    • The possibilities to come to effective solutions within the actual EU directives is a crucial success factor in projects where changes in abiotic circumstance and therefore in the loss of existing nature and landscape values are crucial in the possibilities to reach the goals of those projects. It is of great importance that an intensive common monitoring and evaluation is established.

    Further experiences and lessons learnt from the SDF project with regards to planning, implementation, and participation are available in the SDF reports mentioned in the references part.

    Follow-up projects are currently running also aiming to manage flood risk in a sustainable way:


    Related Measures

    Related Pressures