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Johan

Johan Huibers’ Ark, The Netherlands, 2010

The Netherlands: photographed June 2006 and June 2010.

Situated on the Rhine delta, the Netherlands is potentially one of the most vulnerable countries to increases in sea level or increased frequency of extreme storms.  Twenty-six percent of the country is below sea level and another 29 percent of the country is at risk from river flooding, according to Dutch government estimates.  (These numbers are a correction of estimates used in the IPCC report cited in the link above).

However, a history of disastrous floods has prompted the country to build an elaborate network of water defenses.  To date, defenses have focused primarily on barriers (dykes and large storm surge barriers), but recently the country has developed a strategy of so-called soft defenses, such as the Room for the Rivers initiative, the goal of which is to give the river space for overflow.  This is done by depopulating certain areas, relocating existing dykes, excavating land and other such measures.

In 2008, the Dutch government announced a 200-year climate plan, as reported in Wired magazine.  The plan was predicated on the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC), which exists expressly for the purpose of bridging science and policy.  The plan called for $1.5 billion a year in spending for the next 100 years, a stark contrast to what is politically feasible in the United States and other countries.  The Room for Rivers project and other initiatives followed.  In forging this plan, the Dutch observed a simple formula:  risk = (probability of failure) x (projected cost of damage).  “We will completely control the water,” said one of the engineers on the committee that produced the plan, echoing an inscription on one of Holland’s largest storm surge barriers: Hier gaan over het tij de maan de wind en wij  (Here the tide is ruled, by the wind, the moon and us).

Rising Sea Level XXVI: Plompe Tower, Former Village of Koudekerke, The Netherlands, 2010

Rising Sea Level XXVI: Plompe Tower, Former Village of Koudekerke, The Netherlands, 2010
Historic flood site.

Rising Sea Level XX: The Netherlands, 2007

Rising Sea Level XX: The Netherlands, 2007
Sea dunes.

Rising Sea Level XXIII: The Netherlands, 2007

Rising Sea Level XXIII: The Netherlands, 2007
Sea dike.

Rising Sea Level XXIX: The Biesbosch Noordwaard, The Netherlands, 2010

Rising Sea Level XXIX: The Biesbosch Noordwaard, The Netherlands, 2010
The Dutch “Room for Rivers” policy is creating new floodplains that allow for river flooding during increased winter rains in Europe predicted by climate-change models. The 2,000-hectare Noordwaard area in the Dutch Biesbosch region is one such area. Of the 25 farms in the area, 12 will remain while the others will be relocated to create room for overflowing rivers.

Rising Sea Level XVIII: Zeeland, The Netherlands, 2007

Rising Sea Level XVIII: Zeeland, The Netherlands, 2007
The most ambitious of the Delta Works, the 3-mile long Oosterschelde storm surge barrier between the Oosterschelde estuary and the North Sea.

Rising

Rising Sea Level XVI: Zaltbommel, The Netherlands, 2006