photo groupe - Copie 4

Brussels canal is dressing up for the spring

May 2022

On 26 April 2022 a special event marked a turning point in the history of Brussels canal: the installation of green islands! This pilot project, launched by the Port of Brussels in cooperation with Ecocean, Bruxelles Environnement and Canal It Up, encompasses 224m² of rafts. If the first phase yields good results, 440m² extra will be installed in the following years. It would then become the world’s largest project of floating islands. A great day for our city!

Check out our video to find out more

Why are these green islands so precious? The canal in Brussels centre is all stone, grey and sterile. It suffers from a severe lack of nature. There is no habitat for fish, birds find little food and space to rest and breed, as is the case for butterflies, bees, and other insects. Even for the people who enjoy a view on the water, the canal doesn’t rhyme with a sense of proximity to nature. If you add bad water quality to the mix, the canal is not such an attractive place for people and animals.

In June 2020 we thus developed a project of floating islands to create a green oasis and give nature its place back in the city centre. We decided to dream big and imagined an installation that would run the whole length of the Beco dock (800m) while leaving some space on both sides for several boats to moor. We worked together with the Scottish company Biomatrix Water for the design and with the architect Luc Schuiten for the illustration of the project.

In order to convince the decision makers of the advantages and feasibility of our project, we tried to find subsidies to launch a pilot project and install 145m² of islands in the Beco dock. In the end, the Port of Brussels decided to develop its own project. They launched a feasibility study and later in 2021 a call for tenders, which was won by Ecocean in collaboration with Biomatrix Water. The kick-off of the first phase took place on 26 April 2022 with the first islands being set afloat at the Brussels Royal Yacht Club. For the second phase, the location of the extra islands still has to be determined and Canal It Up will keep pushing for a more central setting where they will benefit the biodiversity as well as the residents.

In order to convince the decision makers of the advantages and feasibility of our project, we tried to find subsidies to launch a pilot project and install 145m² of islands in the Beco dock. In the end, the Port of Brussels decided to develop its own project. They launched a feasibility study and later in 2021 a call for tenders, which was won by Ecocean in collaboration with Biomatrix Water. The kick-off of the first phase took place on 26 April 2022 with the first islands being set afloat at the Brussels Royal Yacht Club. For the second phase, the location of the extra islands still has to be determined and Canal It Up will keep pushing for a more central setting where they will benefit the biodiversity as well as the residents.

The rafts are covered with aquatic plants, which take their nutrients directly from the water via their submerged roots. 17 different species of plants, all indigenous – meaning that they can also be found in their natural habitat along the rivers of our region – will contribute to the development of the biodiversity in the canal. Among them, we can find the famous yellow iris, symbol of the city of Brussels.

What are the advantages of these islands?

  • They create a junction between the existing green pockets in the city and facilitate the crossing of animals;
  • Fish find food, protection, and a place to lay their eggs among the roots;
  • Birds find a habitat on the islands and the plants attract all sorts of insects;
  • They would contribute to an upgrade of the canal landscape, giving nature its place back in the city;
  • The plants can have a purifying effect on the water.

Cages full of oyster shells have been fixed underneath the islands to provide fish with a place to hide and lay their eggs.

Plantes aquatiques et cages - C Biomatrix Water
Ducklings on floating islands - C Biomatrix Water
Ducklings on a floating island (not in Brussels)
C Biomatrix Water
Floating islands in Rennes - C Biomatrix Water
Example of floating islands in Rennes (France)
C Biomatrix Water

As a partner in this project, Canal It Up monitors the rafts. Every month, we visit the site by kayak with a few volunteers to check that there is no damage, to clean up the trash and report on the development of fauna and flora. Every year, we will also ensure maintenance (mowing, planting new plants etc.). If you interested in this project, don’t hesitate to contact us!