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Ringland vs. BAM, Belgium

Since 1996, the government of Flanders tried to build a new highway that would close the ring road around Antwerp. Despite the name, the ring road does not go around the city but runs through the city.


Since 1996, the regional government of Flanders has been trying to build a new highway that would close the ring road around Antwerp. Despite the name, the existing ring road does not go around the city but runs through the city, due to urban sprawl over the last century. The air pollution in Antwerp is some of the worst in Europe and life-expectancy is below the regional average. The huge new project would intensify the problem. The most controversial part is a 3th highway crossing under the river Schelde and the increase of traffic in the city.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Ringland vs. BAM, Belgium
State or province:Antwerpen
Location of conflict:Antwerpen
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Infrastructure and Built Environment
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Pollution related to transport (spills, dust, emissions)
Specific commodities:Land
Project Details and Actors
Project details

Project area:5000
Level of Investment for the conflictive project6,773,000,000
Type of populationUrban
Affected Population:150,000
Start of the conflict:01/01/2005
Company names or state enterprises:BAM Group from Netherlands - Public enterprise created to execute Masterplan 2020 for Antwerp
THV NORIANT - Temporary Consortium of Building and dredging companies
Relevant government actors:Kris Peeters - Minister-President of Flanders Bart de Wever - Major of Antwerp
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:stRaten-generaal: a democracy EJO Ademloos: a health EJO Ringland: urban developers
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Artistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Referendum other local consultations
Street protest/marches
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Air pollution, Noise pollution, Global warming
Health ImpactsPotential: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Deaths, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Other Health impactsHealth experts warn that without a roof on the ring road - life expectancy for the 150.000 affected people will continue to drop from it's already lower-than-average levels.
Project StatusPlanned (decision to go ahead eg EIA undertaken, etc)
Conflict outcome / response:Environmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Negotiated alternative solution
Technical solutions to improve resource supply/quality/distribution
The outcome so far is that ever since the first plans were made in 2000, the project has changed several times - usually after pressure from the action groups. The most recent changes were in 2009, after the referendum and in February 2014, after the EIA. However, the two central pillars of the conflict have not changed (where to make a 3th highway crossing over the river De Schelde and the need to decrease pollution for the 150.000 that live so close to the existing ring road that their health is impaired)
Proposal and development of alternatives:stRaten-generaal has done several proposals since 2000 and their knowledge has increased over time. Their plans have often been checked by world renowned urban developers who confirm their findings. Their latest proposal is the meccano-tracé: a 3th crossing further away from the city.
Ademloos has strengthened stRaten-generaal with medical expertise. Several doctors are active in this EJO. They support the Meccano-tracé from stRaten-generaal.
Ringland is a new player since 2014 and not an EJO but a group of architects and urban planners - supported by campaigners. Since they launched their plan to put a roof on the ring road, they gained over 10.000 supporters in just 2 months. Ademloos and stRaten-general support Ringland and Ringland supports them. However, the Ringland plan doesn't deal with a 3th crossing of de Schelde river by a highway - it deals with the problem of pollution at the existing highway. They created a shift in priority from mobility to health.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:There have been successes in the sense that action groups have so far managed to keep the government from constructing the 3th highway crossing and that the current plan is already a not so bad as the first plan. However, a battle is ongoing to scrap the plan from BAM and to implement the plan from Ringland (although one does not replace the other) On May 4, over 10.000 people demonstrated for this double cause. Opinion polls show a big progress for both the green and the radical left party in Antwerp, together winning 25% of the vote (from 15% together in last elections) - at least in part because these parties support the action groups and have always been against the plans from BAM. This has some repercussions on the regional elections slated for May 25.
UPDATE 31.05.16
After 20 years of struggle, the three action groups in Belgium's second city who resist the Ring Road highway extension to a 27 lane monster scored a major breakthrough. In an unprecedented step, they held a joint press release in the Flemish Parliament, together with the Antwerp city major and the Flemish Minister of mobility, to announce that in the next six months they will work together to study how the biggest chunk of the Ring Road highway will get a green roof.
Sources & Materials
Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

European Regulation for Tunnel safety: defines where you can turn a highway into a tunnel and where you can't. Proves that the BAM-track is incompatible with Ringland because the BAM-track can not be 'capped' once it is made

translation into local laws is available here: (DUTCH)
[click to view]

European Directive on Air Quality - based on this Directive Flanders has received repeated warnings to do something about fine dust (PM10) and the commission has threatened with sanctions. The BAM-track in open air does nothing to address these concerns - while in the Ringland the situation would improve drastically
[click to view]

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Stilstand. Over machtspolitiek, betweterbestuur en achterkamerdemocratie.

A book by Manu Claeys on power politics, backdoor democracy and the dirty story of over a decade of resistance to the BAM
[click to view]

Wikipedia page on the conflict
[click to view]

stRaten-generaal, an EJO fighting for more democracy. Manu Claeys has been at the forefront of this organisation. He knows the dossier in great detail, wrote a book on it and won an important price for democracy
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

A 5 min movie on the Ringland proposal
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Nick Meynen, EEB, [email protected]
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:1235
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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