Here is a perfect example of the mysterious allure of Belgium as a unit of measurement.
“Today is the start of my listening tour across the Barwon electorate. The gravity of the task ahead is not lost on me. This electorate is the largest in New South Wales, covering more than 40 per cent of the state. It’s eleven times the size of Belgium.”
This is a quote by Roy Butler, a politician in Australia, about as far from Belgium as you can get.
It is published in a local Australian newspaper(the Nyngan Observer) whose readers are not likely to be familiar with the size of Belgium.
The area in question (the political district of Barwon) is very nearly the size of Germany, while Belgium is 11 times smaller.
WHY DID HE CHOOSE TO COMPARE IT WITH BELGIUM INSTEAD OF GERMANY? That is the issue that motivated me to start this web site many years ago.
From a piece by the Director of the Forestry Department, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations …
“Imagine an area the size of Belgium, blanketed by forests and trees which provide food, fuel, medicine, shelter, and incomes for local habitants while conserving soil and water for farms and absorbing carbon from the atmosphere.
Now, imagine that area stripped entirely of its trees. This is the amount of forest area lost to the world each year.”
Catalonia’s move towards independence from Spain has been making news for several weeks. If the campaign succeeds in creating a new nation, Catalonia (32,108 sq km) will be roughly the size of Belgium (30,528).
According to an article from Thomson Reuters Trust, “Russia’s five largest landowners together now control an area the size of Belgium after expanding rapidly to increase domestic production of foods on banned imports lists, including beef and chicken, according to Moscow-based consultants BEFL.“
There are some myths about the size of Belgium that keep recurring in various news outlets. One of these concerns the Minkebe National Park in Gabon, which already features in this blog on the Bloopers page.
The authority that manages Minkebe park (Parcs Gabon) gives the area as nearly 8000 square kilometres. That’s about one quarter of Belgium.
However The Atlantic website recently reported on the plight of elephants in the park in “Gabon’s Minkebe National Park—a huge protected area the size of Belgium“.
Why do these errors recur? Do journalists copy from each others’ work instead of getting the accurate date from the original source? Surely not!
Most of the “things” that are described as being the size of Belgium are not countries, but there is one country that is almost a perfect match at 99.5% the size of Belgium. That country is Lesotho in southern Africa, and the similarity was noted by an article on Motorsport.com this week.
“The Motul Roof of Africa off-road competition in Lesotho is considered as one of the toughest challenges a motocross rider can face. A three-day endurance race with an international line-up is about to start. It’s called ‘the mother of hard enduro’ for a reason. The Roof of Africa is being held in Lesotho, a small country with a similar size of Belgium that is surrounded by South Africa.”
Belgium and the Netherlands peacefully re-arranged their borders this week to resolve a problem dating from the 1960s when a change to the course of the River Meuse left two small parcels of Belgian land isolated on the Dutch side of the river, while a fragment of the Netherlands was on the Belgian side.
The stranded Belgian territory became notorious for unregulated drug and sex activity, because the Dutch police had no jurisdiction and the Belgian officials could only reach it by boat.
In 2012 matters were brought to a head (or more accurately a missing head) when a decapitated body was found on the land. The Belgian investigators required special permission to travel to the area and the administrative hurdles were particularly bothersome.
On Monday this week an agreement was finally signed that realigns the national border with the river course. The land parcels Presqu’île de L’llal and Presqu’île d’Eijsden (totalling 25 hectares) were transferred to the Netherlands , while Belgium acquired Presqu’île Petit-Gravier (5 hectares).
Thus Belgium lost around 20 hectares.
Here’s an explanatory video (in Dutch but with English subtitles)
The Guardian just reported on the Pantanal, a large swathe of mostly Brazilian wetlands. The author stated “The Pantanal is the world’s largest wetland territory. Located mostly in Brazil but also covering Bolivia and Paraguay, the wetlands cover an area of 170,500 sq km – equivalent to the combined size of Belgium, Holland, Portugal and Switzerland. “
But did the author do the maths? Let’s check.
Portugal = 92,010 sq km
Holland = 41,850 sq km
Switzerland = 41,284 sq km
Total so far = 175,144, greater than the 170,000 claimed by the author for the Pantanl.