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The European environment – state and outlook 2010

The European environment – state and outlook 2010

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Land - Why care? (SOER 2010)

Why Belgium cares about land use.

Key message

Belgium is challenged by urban expansion of many cities and urban sprawl which is responsible for several environmental problems such as soil sealing, habitat fragmentation, modification of the natural water cycle (flood risks), loss of biodiversity, energy consumption and atmospheric emissions.

Land is a precious resource for Belgium which is a small country (30 528 km²) with a high population density. Artificial areas currently occupy about 20 % of its territory. But these artificial areas have been increasing at a rapid pace during the last 25 years. Growth in residential housing and transport is mainly responsible for this increased land-take. Belgium, like many other EU countries, is challenged by urban expansion of many cities, and urban sprawl. All this is responsible for several environmental problems such as soil sealing, habitat fragmentation, modification of the natural water cycle (flood risks), loss of biodiversity, energy consumption and atmospheric emissions.

Therefore, Belgium must manage land use carefully in the future. The challenge is on the one hand to allow for the development of social and economic activities (dwelling, transport, agriculture, etc.) based on land, and on the other hand, to protect the integrity of natural resource systems and the output of ecosystem goods and services which can also bring economic and social benefits in the long term.