Nieuws - 7 april 2011

A flood or a marsh? Zeeland sensitivities.

Last week's Daily Mail in the UK reported that Mahatma Gandhi was thought to have had a bisexual relationship with a German bodybuilder.

 In his column in the Dutch daily, De Volkskrant, Bert Wagendorp suggested that it is the choice of words that makes a message acceptable or not. How different would the effect have been if the report had talked of a German poet, or perhaps a Neapolitan bodybuilder? It is true that much hangs on our choice of words...
And that is why words are carefully weighed in politics. It is why, for instance, people can debate for weeks whether a new mission to Afghanistan is a military one or simply a matter of providing some police training. A minister's career can hang on a single utterance.
The Netherlands and Belgium have an agreement to keep the Westerschelde estuary navigable for big seagoing ships. This means dredging out shipping channels, and that destroys tidal marshes. In order to compensate for the ecological loss, a decision was made to flood the Hedwig polder in Zeeuws Vlaanderen. Flood! Help! Breaching dykes! In Zeeland, of all places, where the disastrous flood of 1953 lives on in the folk memory. But what if you go about it differently? Many people are very enthusiastic about the way nature has been developed in the Prunje polder on Schouwen, where a large area of farmland has been turned into marshland. It worked fast and now you hear the cries of seabirds and saltmarsh plants such as sea barley have returned. Perhaps we should talk of creating a marsh in the Hedwig polder, not of flooding it?