Flemish ministers Peeters and Demir to New York for UN water conference: “Mainly a marketing stunt to polish up their blanks policy”, says Mieke Schauvliege | Interior

The Flemish Ministers of Environment and Mobility Zuhal Demir (N-VA) and Lydia Peeters (Open VLD) will travel to New York this week for the first water conference of the United Nations in almost 50 years. Peeters and Demir will, among other things, present the Flemish Blue Deal, which should tackle water scarcity and drought.

In the context of the Blue Deal, which Demir elaborated in 2020, 748 hectares of wet nature will be added in Flanders. About 14 kilometers of watercourses have been redesigned naturally, so that water is drained less quickly. In addition, there will be 350 extra weirs to store water and space will be made available to collect 35 million liters of extra rainwater.

“Specify a concrete commitment”

The UN water conference will take place from March 22 to 24 and will be opened by United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday. Demir is the Belgian delegation leader and, just like Peeters, will speak on behalf of Belgium and Flanders and “express concrete commitment”, it says in a press release.

Both ministers take the opportunity to organize a number of bilateral meetings. They see the Dutch Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management Mark Harbers, the Belgian UN Ambassador Philippe Kridelka and UN Water Envoy Henk Ovink, as well as a number of water experts. Peeters and Demir will also be visiting New York to see how the city is protected against flooding.

“Marketing stunt”

In response to the announcement by Demir and Peeters, Member of Parliament Mieke Schauvliege (Groen) says she is critical of their mission. “The presence of ministers Demir and Peeters in New York is mainly a marketing stunt to polish up their blanks policy. But it will not protect Flanders against a possible next water bomb or against subsequent periods of extreme drought. That the ministers willfully remain deaf and blind and refusing to do what is necessary is unacceptable,” she says.

According to Schauvliege, some interventions in the context of the Blue Deal are negated by the lack of structurally decisive policy. “Building is still allowed in water-sensitive areas, there is still no concrete stop and paving continues to increase, there is still no plan to prevent extreme flooding and mudslides,” she denounces. Schauvliege also recalls a recent review of Flemish water policy by the Court of Audit, which dismissed the initiatives as “too fragmentary and limited”.