The canal from Leuven to the Dyle is one of the oldest canals in Belgium, only the Lisseweegse Vaartje near Bruges and the Brussels-Scheldt Sea Canal are older. Leuven had lobbied for more than two hundred years for a connection between Leuven and Mechelen to enable sea-going trade when Maria Theresa finally gave permission in 1750. The canal was soon used intensively for the transport of goods but also of travelers.
The canal underwent relatively few changes over the next two centuries. The locks were reinforced several times. In 1836 and 1837 there were some Hiking route
major dredging works to allow access to ships with a draft of 3.60 m.
Then the Kampenhout-Sas lock was also renovated. But from 1837, canal transport experienced a decline when the Leuven-Mechelen railway was put into operation.
The canal infrastructure is protected as a monument by a Ministerial Decree of 19 March 1997. The canal is still used for the transport of goods by ships up to and including Class II (600 tons).
The statue The Canal Diggers (De kanaalgravers) consists of six digging workers. It is a tribute to the people who have worked day in day out for the realization of the canal. In this way, the sculpture pays tribute to the workers rather than to the canal itself.. The images of Willy Peeters also create the illusion of movement. The six diggers are depicted naked to illustrate the muscular effort of the men.
(Source: Leuven Gebeiteld_metkaft - Leuven statues.pdf, 2014)