The cabinet’s compromise deal to spare part of a polder in the south of the country from being flooded ran into trouble on Sunday when the second and third biggest parties in parliament said they would not support it.
Flooding the Hedwige polder was part of an agreement signed between the Netherlands and Belgium in 2005 to facilitate the deepening of the Westerschelde estuary to allow larger ships into Antwerp port.
However, the Dutch government faced fierce opposition from the Zeelanders, and after the June 2010 election, the new cabinet said the flooding would not go ahead. Farm minister Henk Bleker came up with two alternative sites but neither Belgium, the European Commission or bird protection groups accept the revised plan.
150 football pitches
Now Bleker is suggesting flooding one third of the polder – an area the size of around 150 football pitches, plus a couple of other pieces of land and a golf course. The minister says he expects the EU and Belgian government to agree to the compromise.
However, the anti-immigration PVV, which has an alliance with the minority government does not accept the revised plan. ‘How can you sacrifice expensive agricultural land for nature at a time of food shortages,’ MP Richard Mos told news agency ANP.
Labour does not support the compromise deal either because it is too expensive and will not generate enough ‘new nature’. The party believes the entire polder shoud be flooded, in line with the agreement with Brussels.
This means there is unlikely to be majority support for the compromise deal in parliament, ANP says.