Nature and accommodation in the city are not contradictory: let’s save the Josaphat wasteland
An opinion of Eric De Plaen, lawyer and nature guide.
The Brussels authorities persist in wanting to concrete the Josaphat wasteland, and to refuse a second green lung on Schaerbeek, which would really need it. Beyond a polite interest (the cabinet of Minister President Vervoort listened to the associations but without giving any follow-up), the first public contracts are awarded even before the file has been passed to the Brussels Government and the launch of the public inquiry. announced.
A growing civic concern
The petition “Save the Josaphat wasteland” has collected nearly 15,000 signatures from Brussels citizens. The #PlanB Manifesto brings together around ten representative associations (Natagora, Bral, Bruxelles-Nature, Bas les PAD, Collectif Sauvons la friche, Natuurpunt, Josaph’aire, Sauvons notre parc, Médiapark Committee).
Interest in the Josaphat wasteland is growing. The file has become emblematic.
Climate change and the loss of biodiversity: do we speak or do we act?
Public authorities talk a lot about climate change and the loss of biodiversity (68% loss of biodiversity in 50 years, according to WWF) but act in the opposite direction. Soil mineralization, floods, heat islands in summer, surfaces to (very partially) feed the city, and natural areas accessible to inhabitants, are ignored or aggravated by the Master Development Plans, more particularly by the PAD Josaphat. Green concrete does not exist. It’s easy to color a plane green, but it’s an illusion.
The tree is judged by its fruits, and the citizens have memories.
Is nature in the city for the poor?
Building as much as possible in the city to keep nature in the countryside is a utopia (there are no communicating vessels between the sites in the city or in the countryside). To reduce nature in the city is a social injustice for city dwellers who do not have a garden. We do not understand why parties that advocate solidarity ignore the many citizens, for whom nature is in the public space or it is not.
If we want nature to survive in the city, we have to give it some room. Brussels is less and less green. The Brussels authorities have announced their desire to demineralize public space. We can start by refraining from waterproofing what is not yet waterproof, in favor of urban renewal.
Yes, but the inhabitants have to be accommodated …
Nature and accommodation in the city are not contradictory. The PAD Josaphat is based on an increase in the Brussels population of 10,000 inhabitants per year, while the latest demographic projections are limited to less than 2,000 people per year (for a city of more than 1,200,000 inhabitants). Urban renewal often gives way to new constructions, which increase the mineral hold on the city.
The health crisis has shown that city dwellers need nature like bread. Quality housing, whether social, average or at market prices, needs natural spaces nearby.
What if, for once, we came out on top?
The Josaphat wasteland is one of the last of this size in the Brussels region (1). It contains an extremely rich biodiversity and constitutes an important migration relay. Compensation for the environmental damage caused by urbanization projects is simply not possible. On the contrary, the preservation of a continuous natural space, of which the crossings are limited, makes it possible to conserve a reservoir of biodiversity.
Concreting one of the last remaining natural areas in the city is not worthy of the 21st century. It’s really impossible to change your mind ? There is no shame in giving up a dated project. You can build or renovate on already mineralized surfaces, and let nature exist in the city where it still exists.
(1) The Keelbeek wasteland (20 ha of nature, anyway), in Haren, is disappearing, to make way for a mega-prison, while there was a way to renovate the prisons of Saint-Gilles and Forest.