Belgium is located in Western Europe, and it shares its borders with France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Germany, and the North Sea. It covers an area of 11,787 square miles. Within this area is are three principal geographical regions. These regions include the coastal plains, which consist of sand dunes, the central plateau, which consists of valleys and gorges, and the Ardennes, which consists of a rocky and forested plateau. Rivers and other waterways flow across large portions of these regions. This article takes a closer look at some of the longest rivers in Belgium.
Rivers of Belgium
The Meuse River is the largest river to pass through Belgium. It stretches for 575 miles across France, Belgium, and the Netherlands. Approximately 113 miles of this can be found in Belgium, where it forms part of the border with the Netherlands. This river is important to the economy of Belgium as it provides navigable areas that connect port cities to industrial cities. The majority of the Meuse River Basin is located within Belgium, 4,633 square miles. A recent study of this river indicates that the water level has increased significantly during the wintertime over the last several centuries. This has contributed to an increased number of flooding in certain areas near the river. The Meuse River is also important historically as it was the inspiration for first landscape painting of the Middle Ages.
The second longest river running through Belgium is the Scheldt. Of its 220-mile length, approximately 124 miles flow through Belgium, while the rest of the river is shared with France and the Netherlands. The Lys River empties into the Scheldt at the city of Ghent and in Antwerp, the river veers west into the Netherlands where it empties into the North Sea. This river has been an important transportation and trade route since Roman times. Today, the economy of Belgium and, more specifically, of Antwerp continue to rely on this river. Antwerp, for example, is the second largest port city in Europe, located right on the banks of the Scheldt River. Additionally, several canals connect this river with the Rhine, Meuse, and Seine Rivers, which allows industrial goods to be transported among various cities.
The third longest Belgian river is the Oise River, which runs along a course of 212 miles in length through Belgium and France. Only around 12 miles of this is located within Belgium, where it begins in the Hainaut Province. In France, this river flows into the Seine, connecting Paris to coastal regions throughout Belgium, France, and the Netherlands. Currently, construction of the Seine-Nord Europe Canal is being planned. With this canal, large ships will be able to travel from the Seine in Paris to ports in Antwerp, Rotterdam, and Dunkerque.
Other major rivers in Belgium can be found detailed in the chart published below.
Belgium has a high population density, which means large numbers of people can be found living in relatively small areas. Many of these populations are located along river banks, which is particularly threatening to the environmental health of these waters. Additionally, Belgium is a heavily industrialized nation, which means high levels of pollution and contaminants that make their way into the local rivers. Recognizing these environmental threats, the government of Belgium has implemented several programs, projects, and regulations to reduce the contamination of its waterways. These efforts have worked to greatly improve the water quality. This improved quality has, in turn, brought an increased level of biodiversity to its rivers. This has been seen in greater numbers of both trout and salmon. Recently, the EU Commission has reported excellent water quality off the coast of Belgium in the majority of tested sites.