Project returns life to ‘underwater cemetery’ Grevelingenmeer

Illustration: By Janwillemvanaalst via Wikimedia Commons

The cabinet has decided to put €75m into opening up the Grevelingenmeer in Zeeland to the sea again, bringing new life into what has been described as an ‘underwater cemetery’.

The expenditure is part of a wider scheme to improve the quality of large bodies of water in the Netherlands. In all, €275m has been earmarked for the project, the infrastructure ministry said on its website.

The Grevelingenmeer was completely closed off from the North Sea in the 1970s  as part of the Delta works  flood prevention scheme. But this effectively starved the ecosystem of oxygen and attempts to bring back life into the lake have proved unsuccessful.

The project, which is scheduled to be completed by 2024, involves breaking through the Brouwersdam to bring back tidal movement to the Grevelingenmeer, so feeding oxygen into the water. The infrastructure ministry is looking into combining the Grevelingen project with the construction of a tidal power station.

Ecologist Rienk Geene is happy about the decision to infuse Europe’s largest saltwater lake with fresh, oxygen-containing sea water. ‘It is always said it takes a very long time for an ecosystem to recuperate. But the water quality of the Veerse Meer which was opened up again years ago improved in leaps and bounds in a very short period of time,’ he told the AD.


If the same is true for the Grevelingenmeer, populations of crabs, lobsters, oysters and shrimp will grow quickly and underwater vegetation like serrated wrack tang and knotted wrack can flourish again. At the moment a five meter layer of organic, oxygen starved matter is impeding their growth.

Not acting is not an option, according to diving school owner Martijn Hanson. ‘The dead layer is getting closer to the surface and if nothing happens the Grevelingen will become one big pit of slush,’ he told the paper.

Fisherman Jan Bout is looking forward to the time when he can fish again. ‘There is nothing now. Deeper than six metres everything is dead and is has been getting steadily worse in the last 10 to 12 years. And nobody sees it, ’the AD quotes him as saying.