Infrastructure and the Environment Minister Melanie Schultz van Haegen and Nijmegen Mayor Hubert Bruls today pulled a life-size thumb out of a dyke to illustrate the fact that the River Waal now has more room around Nijmegen.

As a result, the water level of the river has dropped 34 centimeters, nearly 13.5 inches. The Nijmegen Room for the River Waal project is one of the largest and most awe-inspiring of the projects being realized within the framework of Rijkswaterstaat’s national Room for the River flood risk management program.

By widening the river, the risk for flooding of Nijmegen and the surrounding upriver area is reduced considerably.

The Waal makes a sharp bend near Nijmegen and becomes narrower, forming a bottleneck. At times of high water, the river could not cope with the volume of water. To protect residents from flooding, the dyke has been moved 300 meters (nearly 330 yards) inland and a 2.5-mile-long secondary channel has been dug.

This has created an island in the center of the city that is connected to Nijmegen-Noord bt three new bridges. The work started in January 2013. Fifty households were relocated as a result of the flood-risk management measures.

“A unique urban river park has been created in Nijmegen: the Spiegelwaal and the Veur Lent island are part of a plan in which flood-risk management and urban quality go hand in hand,” said Minister Schultz. “In the 1995 flooding, Nijmegen residents were up to their neck in water. Now, the Waal can cope with a similar volume of water with no problem at all. Nijmegen is prepared for future high water levels caused by climate change.”


River park

The flood-risk management measures have been carried out in a manner that ensures they add value to the city in other ways. The new area has become a place where there is room for living, nature, recreation, education, hospitality venues, and small-scale events. A new quay forms the beating heart of the river park.

“Here, we have turned a danger into an opportunity,” said Mayor Bruls. “With this project Nijmegen has acquired an additional, very special recreational area just a stone’s throw from the city center.”


Grand opening

Once all the work has been completed, on 28 March 2016 (Easter Monday), everyone will be able to get acquainted with this new part of the city. On that day, which marks the start of the outdoor season, various activities will be taking place on and around the island to demonstrate the opportunities the new river park offers.


Room for the River

Dutch rivers have to cope with high water levels increasingly more often. They have to discharge more rainwater and meltwater while there is little room for this between the dykes. As a result, the risk of flooding increases.

Raising the height of dykes alone is not enough to control the increased flood risk. The water levels of the rivers have to be reduced. For this reason, Rijkswaterstaat, water authorities, municipalities and provinces have provided our rivers with more room in more than 30 places.

For example, dykes have been relocated, secondary channels have been dug, and flood plains deepened. In this way, we are working together on keeping the four million residents of the area around the major rivers safe, while at the same time creating an attractive living environment.