The aggressive policy of revitalizing the Sites to be Redeveloped (SAR) conducted by the Walloon Region has its share of environmental and social consequences. These areas formerly exploited by man and returned to a natural state, often for decades, are part of the urban and rural fabric and constitute green spaces that have been reappropriated by local populations: playgrounds, places for walks, vegetable gardens and community gardens, buffer zones between industries and residential areas, sometimes temporary shelter for the most destitute among us … or simply semi-wild places, serving as a refuge for a biodiversity that has been undermined and offering many ecosystem services.
The priority given by the Walloon Region to public or private investors for the reallocation of these natural sites seems to go against the policy of « sustainable development » encouraged by the Region and the European Community. The increasing artificialization of land is a major problem at the national level, Belgium being already one of the most densely populated countries in the EU. The water cycle as well as the biodiversity of our country are seriously impacted. In this context, why concreting again and again? Industrial zones, parking lots, shopping centers, ultra-regulated parks, new pseudo-ecological housing, disproportionate tourist infrastructures: so many projects imposed on citizens under the guise of territorial profitability and economic growth.
IN ARLON IT’S CONCRETE!
In the city of Arlon, « major works » projects are epidemic and we find among them a sad example of this hunt for semi-wild spaces, with the sale of a municipal land — the former Schoppach sand pit — to the IDELUX-AIVE Group, a group of inter-municipal companies present in the provinces of Liege and Luxembourg, operating in the field of water and waste management, as well as in the field of land management, under public and private capital. The Schoppach sand pit is listed as a SAR and will be rezoned by 2020 to encourage economic activity on the outskirts of the city. The problem? In addition to providing a buffer zone between the highway and the Schoppach residential area, this 31-hectare natural area has become, over the decades, a haven for many endangered species, including the bank swallow, the great crested newt, two endangered butterfly species, and several protected plant species, in addition to the biodiversity characteristic of some wetlands. However, despite the claims of the inhabitants against this project and a petition launched by them, the zoning project is maintained by the public authorities, ignoring the ecological value of the site as well as the opinion of the citizens.
Belgium against the grain: the concreting of agricultural land in Perwez and Hondelange, the Cerexhe-Heuseux-Beaufays link, Alibaba’s logistics hub in Bierset, urbanization around the Ry-Ponet, Pairi Daiza’s extensions in Durbuy, coal gas exploitation in Anderlues, a tourist complex in the Rabais valley, etc.
The city of Arlon is not the only one impacted. In the four corners of Belgium, citizens’ associations denounce this problem, revealing by various means the growing dialogue of the deaf against the public authorities, political coalitions and economic interests that prevail. For example, the projects for the northern bypass of Wavre, the concreting of agricultural land in Perwez and Hondelange, the Cerexhe-Heuseux-Beaufays link, the Alibaba’s logisticshub in Bierset, the urbanization around Ry-Ponet, the extensions of Pairi Daiza in Durbuy, the exploitation of coal gas in Anderlues, a tourist complex in the Rabais valley, the pylon of trading high frequency at the Botrange signal, a new regional road between the Meuse valley and the E411 in the territory of Assesse, the privatization of 136ha of forest in Aubange, an economic activity zone in Braine, about thirty green spaces and vegetable gardens in Brussels threatened with concrete and the sad maxi-prison in Haren, not to mention the Dutch-speaking half of the country…
ZONE TO DEFEND EVERYWHERE ?
What do these struggles have in common? Access to the territory, a general quality of life, the rejection of polluting activities and the claim of a decision-making right of the local populations on the future of their region. The economic interests of both sides are the focus of public attention, with increasing criticism of partnerships between political parties and private companies. What coherent social and environmental policy is the Walloon Region putting in place to avoid the artificialization of land in inhabited areas? Why rush the sale of green spaces to private industrialists instead of preserving their biodiversity through socially and ecologically useful aims? Economic competitiveness is always invoked, but what will be the price to pay? Faced with these questions, for which we can already guess the answers provided by the political class, we understand that it becomes imperative to organize ourselves without their support to defend our territories, to preserve the ecosystems that are located there and to claim their use as common property!
The Friends of the Sablières
To say « No to the destruction of the Arlon sandpit », the Friends of the sandpits invite you to symbolically occupy the sandpit on the weekend of October 26 and 27. More info HERE