International Symposium 150 years New Waterway

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History and future of shipping channels

The LDE PortCityFutures Center intends to organize a symposium on the history and future of the New Waterway (Nieuwe Waterweg) in The Netherlands, in order to discuss man-made interventions in river mouths in favor of shipping traffic and port development and with large impacts on environmental and spatial aspects. 

Port cities worldwide have been able to develop in coastal landscapes such as deltas, estuaries and lagoons. This development was accompanied by radical transformations of these coastal landscapes through land reclamation, diking and canalisation. The construction and systematic deepening of shipping channels in particular plays a key role in this, with the Nieuwe Waterweg (‘New Waterway’) in Rotterdam as an illustrative example.

These coastal landscapes are the scene of an increasing tension between economic growth and associated infrastructural interventions on the one hand, and the quality, sustainability and resilience of natural systems, spatial settlement patterns and urban societies on the other. There are two reasons for fundamentally overhauling land and water use in these coastal landscapes: (1) the general, globally recognized need for an energy transition, in order to minimize climate change; and (2) the need to enhance the sustainability and resilience of the natural and societal systems of these regions, creating safer cities and richer ecosystems.

The question for the near future is how new relationships between economic development and natural system can be established. A new role for (and treatment of) the shipping channels intersecting coastal regions will be crucial for strategies aiming to establish new relationships. That is why these strategies will only be possible when they are based on broad public debate and support. The symposium is meant to discuss initiatives and possibilities for these new relationships, the challenges and implications for water management, spatial planning and design, and the way how public support can be obtained.

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