Almost three tonnes of waste have been collected from the Haute-Meuse river in the province of Namur by around 50 volunteers on Saturday as part of the “Clean Meuse” volunteer operation, organised by the Haute-Meuse River Contract (CRHM),
The action took place while the river was dammed between the Hastière French border and the Plante lock in Namur, allowing volunteers to descend onto the exposed riverbed and extract years of build-up of rubbish and other detritus.
According to the organisation, this is the first time since 2017 that Walloon authorities have cut off the supply of water to the stretch of river, owing to planned maintenance to locks, dams, and the banks of the river.
The CRHM says that the low water level serves as an opportunity to make a positive impact on the local environment. Volunteers have already cleared waste from near the districts of Dave, Anseremme, and Hastière and will return next week to clear rubbish in Yvoir and Godinne.
“We organise this operation every five years during low water levels in the Meuse,” explained Frédéric Mouchet, coordinator of the CRHM. “In 2017 and 2012, we collected around ten tonnes of waste, compared to 25 tonnes in 2007. We can therefore see that there is a positive development and probably less incivility.”
By next week, the group hopes to fish 10 tonnes of waste out of the river. The group is targeting areas of the river with especially low water-levels for the safety of its volunteers.
“This Saturday, we are at three tonnes of waste which will be transported by the works services of the municipalities concerned, for which we give thanks. With Yvoir and Godinne next week, we should arrive at just under 10 tonnes,” Mouchet added.
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This year, the volunteers have noticed an increase in the amount of large and bulky items being fished from the river, notably tires from agricultural vehicles, which the group blames on the 2021 floods. Generally, the group believes that Belgian society is acting more responsibly and is dumping less waste into its rivers.
Those who wish to participate in the upcoming 8 October collection action day can apply by emailing the organisers at firstname.lastname@example.org. Around 300 volunteers, mostly from youth organisations, have already registered.
To mark the event, festivities are also planned, including a magic show and a candle-lit storytelling walk on the bed of the Meuse. In the evening, a concert and barbeque is planned.