Congratulations, VEV !

Regularly informed of the VEV project and its progress, I am honoured to be given the opportunity to address the network as president of Inland Waterways International.
The association, which counts among its membership waterway authorities, associations, professionals and individuals from 15 countries, was founded to promote inland waterways throughout the world. In addition to playing what we hope is a valuable role in the world canal conferences held each year, by guaranteeing continuity of the debates and the messages that are disseminated, we lend our support to projects which, in line with the philosophy of your network, aim to maintain and operate the canals for the greatest benefit to the community.
This involves making the public aware of the value of waterways for a whole range of activities, from cruising and boat trips to simply walking along the towpath.
Our association also recommends the rehabilitation of waterways that have fallen into disuse, wherever the validity of this choice can be proven, and uses its influence in support of such projects. The way the situation is evolving on the projects we are monitoring in many countries suggests that these limits are being pushed further and further! As a caricature, I would say that what appeared yesterday to be unrealistic has today become possible and perhaps in some cases urgent!
We are thus particularly heartened by the progress on the founding projects that are specifically assisted by VEV programme: opening within two years of the Millennium Link, conservation of the unique environment and heritage of the Paderno Canal, restoration of navigation of the Tarn circuit based on the Canal des Deux Mers, continued operation of the hydraulic lifts on the Canal du Centre, etc. We are also delighted to hear about the link-up between the two Terra programmes VEV and Grootstad, in favour of a major cross-border urban project around restoration of the Roubaix Canal, a waterway saved from infilling in the 1980s thanks to pressure from anglers and several of our founder members (see article).
This exchange augurs well for opening of the VEV network to a wider partnership, for which I am sure that the authorities in my country (Republic of Ireland) will be particularly enthusiastic. Since reopening of the Shannon-Erne waterway in 1994 (a major project financed 50% by the ERDF), there have remained in Ireland many challenges to be tackled to ensure dynamic, balanced development throughout the canal network, under the auspices of Waterways Ireland, which I believe is the first navigation authority in the world to have control over waterways in two separate jurisdictions. Their aim is not simply to reopen the various former links (Royal Canal, Ulster Canal, Newry Canal,...) but above all to make these canals live throughout the year, for local development that will bring employment, as well as being an object of identification and a sense of pride among the regional population.
What the Shannon-Erne link has succeeded in doing in a backward rural region is quite remarkable, and indirect impacts have well exceeded all the projections. However, before we can say we have similarly succeeded in Dublin, in its docks and on the canals, along the Royal Canal, much effort is still required, and we would be delighted if the widened VEV network gave us the opportunity to exchange with you all, to improve our projects and make them perform better under all headings: social, employment, sustainable development.


Président Inland Waterways International