"Streams, channels and rivers have a major impact on the quality of global marine ecosystems”
Streams, channels and rivers that run inland have a major impact on the quality of global marine ecosystems and their importance is often unknown to urban populations.
Troughout our stay at BRYC, we had the chance to produce our first chronicles, documenting the initiatives carried by various actors along Brussels’ Channel to protect and enhance the site. This encounters allowed us to better understand the vital role of such structure at the heart of the European capital.
During our one-year-long stay in Brussels with Sabali, our mission was clear: prepping her to take on the ocean. Yet, we didn’t lose from sight our principal objectives: working towards the preservation of our marine and coastal environment and promoting other initiatives that share the same goal. We were sure that our city harbored its share of preservation initiatives and went looking out for them. But how to promote marine preservation initiatives in a landlocked city? We followed what was under our noses since the day we arrived with Sabali: the Brussels canal. While being an important commercial waterway, the canal also shapes the face of the city, a place where people live, go out and meet. Iit is also directly connected to the North Sea, thus participating in the water quality on a global scale, knowing that 80% of ocean pollution comes straight from inland waterways.
After a bit of research, three initiatives in particular caught our attention: Canal-it-Up, Coordination Senne and Escaut Without Borders. A small word over here on their amazing work:
Canal-it-up aims to reduce the amount of garbage that ends up in the canal. It was founded by Pieter in (year) when he realized that Brussels canal is regularly flooded with tons of plastic waste of all sorts and that the majority of that plastic ends up in the North Sea, a few miles downstream. His goal is to mobilize volunteers from Brussels and beyond and invite them to kayak for a few hours and pick up whatever garbage they can spot on the water. This activity, while seemingly futile in comparison to the magnitude of the problem (insert stat on quantity of plastic waste in the oceans here), is an important educational tool according to Pieter and his team. Once people realize the connection between inland waterways and global ocean pollution, they are more prone to act to address the problem at its root. Canal-it-up serves then as a platform to draw the attention of local politicians and work with them to fix the issue at the city level. They achieved, together with other associations, the installation of vegetation islands along the Brussels canal. These islands, while providing shelter and food to local fauna also serve to filter water pollution thus making Brussels water cleaner, all that with minimal maintenance.
Coordination Senne is an association that monitors the quality of water in the canal, organizes sensitizations workshops for Brussels’ kids and serves as an information center for decision makers. They follow the evolution of government-set thresholds to define water quality based on different parameters such as the amount of dissolved oxygen or the presence of phosphates. They advocate for strengthening these criteria in order to improve government’s definition of clean water. Finally, Coordination Senne launched the “Here begins the sea” initiative which consists of painting these words in front of sewer drainage holes (?) in order to prevent people throwing cigarette butts there.
We were lucky to be able to follow both associations during their activities, speak with the organizers and participants, gather their impressions and knowledge on topics related to the preservation of the nature of the Brussels canal. Their messages converged in numerous points: it is crucial to keep our inland waterways as clean as possible, to educate people on their importance for our societies and that ultimately the decision makers are the ones to detain real power to make a positive impact for these ecosystems.
Don’t hesitate to contact these associations to spend a lovely Saturday afternoon kayaking in Brussels, tagging the “Here begins the sea” logos or following Alain during his observation rounds along the canal!