News - February 14, 2013

Plus ça change in polder politics

'With hindsight we wouldn't have approved the transaction,' I read in relation to the fall of SNS bank. 'With hindsight' is an expression that has been trotted out an awful lot recently, particularly by politicians and bankers trying to cover up their blunders. The saga of the Hedwige polder is a case in point.

By an interesting twist of fate, parliament has ratified the flooding of the polder precisely in the week in which we commemorate the disastrous flood of 1953. Three hundred hectares of heavy clay are to be returned to the sea and the dyke that cost millions of euros to construct 20 years ago will be broken. Curtains for 4500 trees and a handful of farms. We do need compensation for nature, but is this the way to go about it? Local Zeeland newspaper the PZC quoted me a few months ago: 'It's either giving the polder back to the sea or summoning up the courage to enter into a proper dialogue about nature compensation.' Yes, I do wonder what might have come out of such a carefully conducted discussion - without hindsight.
A start will be made on flooding the polder in 2016 and by 2019 the Hedwige will be totally submerged. I am reminded of nature conservationist Jac. P. Thijsse, who opposed to the last the proposal by the mayor and city council of Amsterdam to buy up the Naardermeer lake and use it as a rubbish tip. He wrote in a column that he would only stop his efforts to oppose the move 'when the first cartload of junk is dumped in the water.'.