Nijmegen is located on the river Waal, between hills, polders and forests, which has been attracting people to the place for over 2,000 years. As the Netherland’s oldest city, it cherishes its history, while also realising that a sustainable future for its inhabitants is at least as important.
As of 2016, Nijmegen had 172,000 inhabitants, 75,000 houses, 80,000 cars and 250,000 bicycles. Since 1923 Nijmegen has been home to Radboud University. Together with the HAN University of Applied Sciences, it educates 40,000 students, which helps to inspire the city's youthful, modern culture.
Nijmegen is still growing. North of the Waal, the city is developing a new district with 12,000 houses. This sustainable development is based on the Ecopolis theory, whereby the basis for city development is natural infrastructure, sustainable green-blue infrastructure to store rainwater for use during dry periods and green space to provide citizens with beautiful surroundings and for recreation. The new houses are energy efficient and are largely connected to the residual heat network. A sustainable mobility system is also being developed that puts cycling and clean public transport first.
Adapting to climate change using nature
The Room for the Waal project (widening the river in the city centre) was the biggest inland climate adaptation project in Holland. People from all over the world come to visit Nijmegen for this outstanding example of water system innovation. In the heart of the city, the dike was relocated 350m and now a side channel and an island have been created in the river Waal. This River Park provides high water security and spatial quality at the same time.
The realization process involved extensive discussion and collaboration with various stakeholders. Concerns were raised before the outset by some people concerned that houses would have to be removed for high water safety reasons. However, these measures have proven to have been worth it, and citizens felt proud of the project and that the government delivered the promised outcome. The city Nijmegen took over the lead from the State government in this project, demanding a high spatial quality. The project was completed on time and within the budget. All residential areas are traffic safe (max. speed 30 km/h). Most residents go to work by bike or public transport. All city/regional busses are powered by green gas.
But Nijmegen still faces the negative effects of climate change: heavy rains and heat stress. In districts built after 1965 rain and drainage water remains separated. In districts built before 1965 we disconnect streets and houses from the mixed sewer and store the rainwater into the ground. Since 2000 already 15% of the paved surface is no disconnected and more and more also grey areas are turned over into green areas (pocket parks, green roofs, green walls) together with the citizens' participation.