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Wetlands as a natural climate buffer

Wetlands or marshlands are making an important contribution to the fight against climate change in Flanders. Wetlands provide protection from flooding and water scarcity. They also capture carbon and act as a type of green air conditioning in overheated urban areas. Over the past 50 to 60 years, Flanders has lost 75% of its wetlands. In the LIFE project Wetlands4Cities, the Flanders Environment Agency (VMM) is therefore working with 5 project partners to restore and boost the role of wetlands as natural climate buffers.

Wetlands4Cities Mechels Broek Vrouwvliet

What and why?

The impact of climate change forms a very tangible presence in medium-sized European cities such as Mechelen (BE) and Tilburg (NL). The adjoining natural and agricultural areas regularly suffer from drought and a loss of biodiversity. Wetlands4Cities aims to make urban centres and their surrounding natural areas resilient to climate change. By addressing this together, urban rainwater policies can help restore the surrounding natural wetlands.
Wetlands4Cities will restore a total of 360 acres of wetlands (320 acres in Mechelen and 39 acres in Tilburg) with the goal of increasing flood resilience, combating the heat island effect, increasing biodiversity and creating natural recreational opportunities.

Purpose of the project

Wetlands4Cities sets four specific goals:

  • To reduce the impacts of floods and droughts by restoring natural wetlands, increasing infiltration in urban areas and enhancing the natural waterscape between cities and their surroundings.
  • To improve liveability by restoring natural hydrological conditions resulting in increased biodiversity and natural recreational opportunities.
  • To engage citizens to increase their climate awareness.
  • To demonstrate the integrated climate adaptation approach to other medium-sized European cities in densely populated regions.

Within this project, VMM will improve the structural quality of the ‘Vrouwvliet’ and ‘Barebeek’ watercourses. That way, they will have a more balanced drainage regime so that the wetlands in which they are located will no longer dry out during dry periods. On the other hand, the natural water storage function will be able to function more effectively during periods of heavy precipitation.

Wetlands4Cities in Europe

LIFE Wetlands4Cities is being carried out on behalf of the European Commission as part of the LIFE programme led by Natuurpunt.


  1. Natuurpunt (coordinator)
  2. Natuurmonumenten
  3. Stad Mechelen
  4. Stad Tilburg
  5. Flanders Environment Agency
  6. Waterschap De Dommel

Duration: 01/09/2022 - 01/09/2027

VMM contributes to the international policymaking and the implementation of environmental obligations.

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Flanders Environment Agency (VMM) covers three main areas: water, air quality and climate (adaptation).