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In western and central Europe, there are already several cases of reopening covered rivers. In Berlin, large parts of the urban stream Panke has been covered or moved to underground pipes in the last 200 years. Nowadays, the restoration of this urban stream is being planned in order for the stream to obtain its natural structure.[2]

In the outskirts of Paris, a section of the river Bièvre has recently been reopened in Fresnes park and this was an important step for the local residents to rediscover this riverside area.[3] Indeed, projects of reopening urban rivers are often connected to city initiatives to enhance the aesthetics of the city and actions to improve surface water quality.

In the city of Aarhus, the city authorities decided in 1989 to uncover the urban river which was initially covered to its full stretch across the city due to water pollution from sewage and general waste, new traffic requirements and ambitions to develop the town into a modern city (see section 3.2.2).

In the city of Leuven, covered branches of the River Dyle are opened up, as part of a bundle of activities of the city and the Flanders Environment Agency to enhance the role of rivers in the urban fabric and live in close vicinity with the water. Opening up the river and the creation of green river banks within the city, improves the structural quality of the river and makes it more interesting for nature (even within the city). The realisation that open water courses in the city create significant added value is gaining in importance, not only among public administrations, but also among private project developers.

In Brussels, about 400 metres of the Woluwe stream, which had been enclosed since the mid 19th century, and its banks have been restored in recent years. This has created an open natural stream and a green corridor that is also part of the region’s Green Network. The project also involved the separation of stormwater and sewage flows and therefore reduces the undesirable dilution of the influent into the Brussels wastewater treatment plant (OECD, 2007). The opportunity to proceed with the re-opening of the Woluwe stream was given after the Brussels Central Region program Blue Network was set up (partly to link up with the existing Green Network).

In the UK, specific policy has been developed to prevent culverting, promote the removal of these structures and restore urban rivers back to a more natural condition. A few rivers have already been reopened, such as the formerly “lost” River Quaggy, whose course was recently brought back to the surface as part of the broader strategy London Rivers Action Plan. Its restoration entailed breaking the river out of a narrow concrete channel and recreating a functional floodplain as part of an attractive parkland landscape. The project had the effect of decreasing local flooding and achieving an additional integrated set of biodiversity, leisure, amenity and educational benefits, contributing to the regeneration of the area (Everard & Moggridge 2011). Since then the Quaggy has become a major feature of Sutcliffe Park in south London.

In Zürich, a clean-water concept for separating uncontaminated water from sewage channels has been extended into a stream restoration concept (Zürich stream daylighting program). The goal was to re-open (daylight) as many streams as possible, re-aligning them on the surface so as to increase ecological and recreational values within the urban area of the city of Zurich (Conradin & Buchli, 2004).

As mentioned in previous sections, a strategy dedicated to de-culverting streams has been developed in the city of Oslo. The Oslo de-culverting strategy has succeeded in recuperating the value of natural streams, in retaining and cleaning urban stormwater, thus leading to an improved water quality in the larger streams of the city.

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