Photos: Gemeente Nijmegen
The 170 000 inhabitants of Nijmegen live in the oldest city in the Netherlands, alongside the iconic River Waal. At Nijmegen, it bends sharply to the west, hugging the city and
forming a bottleneck in the river. The last major floods of the city in 1993 and 1995 resulted in the action of Dutch Government, the municipality and other stakeholders that created more room
for the river, whilst safeguarding the city inhabitants.
The 'Room for the River' project also coincides with urban expansion on the north bank of the river, giving the project a European
(nature-development), a National (water safety) and a Local (urban development) focus. The objectives of the project were to achieve climate resilience, future sustainability and spatial quality.
With such ambitious and diverging objectives, the Room for the River project had to engage with multiple stakeholders to negotiate mutually beneficial compromises. Besides flood protection the
plan was to create opportunities for housing, recreation, culture and nature.
An intensive and substantive cooperation between designers, researchers, citizens and governmental bodies resulted in a city that can now be
described as enjoying physical, social and ecological resilience.
The Room for the River project, and the creation of the Mirror Waal demonstrated a paradigm shift in the way we incorporated climate change data
and information into decision-making to create an impressive new identity for the city of Nijmegen. This identity as a resilient, safe and sustainable city was one of the reasons Nijmegen was
selected (in total on the basis of 12 indicators) as the European Green Capital for 2018.
Read more about the nomination and what the jury has said.
The Netherlands is particularly susceptible to a range of climate change impacts. In this low-laying country, climate change will bring about
higher average temperatures, more extreme rainfall in shorter periods of time and longer periods of drought. Summers are likely to be drier. As a coastal country, the Netherlands is also affected
by the rising sea level. Some of these changes will be gradual, others more intense.
Another major effect of a changing climate is a larger projected volume of water in Dutch rivers. In order to prevent flooding of urban areas,
the Dutch government is promoting a policy of widening flood plains of larger rivers. Currently, there are more than 30 such river-widening projects throughout the country. River-widening, rather
than raising the dikes, is a departure from the traditional Dutch approach to flood protection. These widening projects along the rivers IJssel, Rhine/Lek, Meuse and Waal are known as creating
‘Room for the River’.
Room for the river Waal along Nijmegen is one of the earliest and completed projects to create greater resilience to climate
change. In the case of Nijmegen this involved moving the Waal dike in Lent (northern part of the city) and constructing an ancillary channel in the flood plains, the so called Spiegelwaal (Mirror
Waal). This has created an island in the Waal and a unique urban river park with lots of possibilities for recreation, culture, water and nature.
Copyright: Gemeente Nijmegen
The use of this unique River Park.