Student - April 12, 2007

Dutch solutions to rising sea levels

What about raising ground level in the Netherlands by five metres using sand from the North Sea as a solution to the rising sea level? Not very realistic, admits Niels Roode from the Dutch water authority Rijkswaterstaat, but the thought illustrates the way his organisation is seeking novel ways to address climate change.

‘Perhaps adding a layer of sand when building new neighbourhoods in central Holland isn’t such a crazy idea after all,’ suggested Rood at the symposium Sea and Coast Management organised by Van Hall Larenstein in Leeuwarden on 28 March. ‘It’s strange really that we continue building in the lowest and most densely populated part of our country, while a large-scale evacuation plan has never been properly thought out.’

The Netherlands has never been safer, the man from Rijkswaterstaat hastened to add, but simply making the dykes higher is no longer enough to deal with the expected rise in water levels. The costs alone are enough to prompt a search for an alternative approach to ‘flooding safety’, as it is called in Rijkswaterstaat jargon.

Rijkswaterstaat is now actively seeking dialogue with the government and public bodies so that responsibility for risks arising from calamities can be shared. One of the ideas is compulsory flood insurance for all Dutch citizens. It is almost certain that this will be introduced, Roode said. Compartmentalising the fourteen dyked areas in the Netherlands is politically more sensitive. The plan is that, in the event of a flood, the water would be diverted to areas where the least damage would be done. The problem is that nobody wants to live in an area that may become designated as a flood area, predicted Roode.