Brussels has rediscovered its beloved river, the future “Green Corridor”

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(Brussels) For Baudelaire, in the 19th century, the Senne which flows in Brussels was “only a large toilet”. Covered with concrete, the now cleaned river is now partially open to “bring nature back to the city”.


Matthew Demester
France Media Agency

About a hundred kilometers long, the Sennelo brings together around fifteen Brussels agglomerations, two thirds of which are made of concrete formwork.

The new open section, which opened over 200 yards on Tuesday, hasn’t fundamentally changed its reputation as an invisible river.

But “this is a real paradigm shift; We no longer plan to hide this watercourse and we will return it to the people of Brussels, ”said Benjamin Thibax, project manager at the Brussels Environment Agency, a regional agency interviewed before the inauguration.

Behind him, the hand of an excavator lifts large dominoes of vegetable ingredients one by one and places them at the bottom of the river.

“These vegetable sausages contain aquatic plants that take root in the banks and regenerate vegetation that respects biodiversity,” explained Mr. Thibox.

Sean aims to “regain its role as an ecological corridor, with water purified by plants” for fish and birds.

This “regenerative” process, which began with the first sanitation works ten years ago, is starting to be felt by the people of Brussels.

Walk 600 meters

In the capital, walking along the Senne is currently only possible up to 600 meters in the southern Andrlech. By 2025, the downtown park where the river flows will double with the reconstruction.

It is difficult to be more ambitious, because water-repellent concrete has for many years become an urban infrastructure (Grands Boulevards, Gare du Midi, etc.).

But gradually “the river is once again becoming a real source of water, a source of joy, relaxation and well-being,” curator Ad Hendrick Underline said at the Sewage Museum, one of the major places specializing in the topic. Water in Brussels.

“It is not the public sewer of the Boudoir era”, adds the historian.

The sinful history of Senne gave the life of the Belgian capital a break and its parasites also infiltrated the works of the poet.

In the 1860s, Charles Baudelaire lived in Brussels for almost two years. It was an unpleasant period when the river was not protected against the Belgians.

“Pile of garbage”

In Poor Belgium, Incomplete brochure, author Bad flowers Wrote: “The Farrow (a type of beer produced in Brussels, note) was taken in the large toilet, Senne; it was a drink extracted from the excrements of the city… ”

Ad Hendrik described the mid-19th century as a crucial period for Sen.

Already polluted by emissions from local industries (textiles, printing, breweries), the waterway is “twice as large” since it becomes the receptacle of a new sewer network created for the management of wastewater. It has already lost all fluvial function due to the presence of a canal in Brussels.

“It’s not a river, it’s a low-flow river too small to absorb this organic load. At certain times of the year the water gets very low, where the garbage piles float and smell bad, ”said Mr.Tome Hendrick.

This unreality does not correspond to the aspiration of a modern and bourgeois city center specific to any large capital. It was the hour of the transformation of Paris by Baron Houseman. In Brussels, the authorities have opened a vast project for the Senne Treasury, completed 150 years ago in 1871.

With the establishment of two large wastewater treatment plants, it was only possible to run and develop “open skies” since the 2000s, when the “sewerage” disappeared.


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