Friday, 12 June 2009

Sea defences

The Netherlands is a country within which a large proportion of the people live below sea level. What's more, some of the land was reclaimed from the sea. The world's largest artificial island has hundreds of thousands of people living on it, spread between three cities and several villages.

The sea defences here are quite incredible. They are built on a huge scale. For instance, the world's second largest moving structure is just one element of the defences which protect Rotterdam.

The video above shows the Aflsuitdijk, which I cycled across last summer. This is one of the major parts of the sea defence for the northern part of the country, a 32 km long dyke. Until very recently, this dyke which was built in the early part of the 20th century was the longest in the world.

In the wake of Katrina, the US has been urged to copy the Dutch system, which is designed to cope with one in 10000 year events rather than the once per century events that the US flood defences are designed to cope with.

Update: A few days later I learn that one in six British homes are at risk of flooding. Apparently, doubling the funding for flood defences to 1B pounds per year could save a cost of 4B pounds a year due to flooding. This could perhaps be seen as good value for money...

In the time we've lived here there have been many stories in the British press about homes being flooded. Not so in the Dutch press.

You can read more about the sea defences at the delta works website.