Room for the River

Jan van der Grift, Bureau Plano, Netherlands

For 1000 years the Dutch have built higher and stronger dykes in occupation of the low-lying delta of North-Western Europe. 75 percent of the Netherlands is below sea level and 55 percent of housing is located in flood prone areas. The elaborate network of dykes are the only protection the Dutch have against flooding.

With increased and more frequent extreme high-water levels due to climate change a new approach is being undertaken. A major flooding event occurred in 1995 in which 250,000 people had to be evacuated. The Dutch have traditionally defended themselves against the sea but this time the floodwaters came from the rivers, as a result of heavy rainfall and melting snow in the Alps. Once in a century levels of flooding occurred in two consecutive years.

In response the national Room for the River program was initiated. In over 30 locations, topographical measures are being implemented that address the regional goal of giving more room to the rivers so they can process higher levels of water and local goals of ecological and economic improvement.


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