Dutch News

28 January 2013
Minister: Netherlands badly prepared against floods If hit by a super storm, the Dutch are not as safe as they think they are

In an article in the Saturday issue of newspaper De Volkskrant the minister of infrastructure Schultz warns that the Dutch are very ill-prepared to handle a flooding disaster. Although the Dutch are known for their water management skills, the minister states that too many people do not know the risks, and do not know what to do in case of emergency. This year it is sixty years ago that Dutch experienced the worst floods in their history, the floods of 1953, in the south-west of the country.


The minister of infrastructure is working on an ambitious plan to prepare the Netherlands for a flooding disaster. Detailed regional evacuation plans are made, especially for the west of the country. There the situation is complex. Minister Schultz: 'If the water rolls in at high-speed, the area that is under sea level will fill up rapidly. Than fleeing to higher situated area's is not an option anymore. The escape route will even lead through much lower parts of the country’. Although plans are made to open all lanes of highways in one direction, the minister stresses the Netherlands is actually a bath tub, ‘in case there will be two meters of water on the road it will be useless anyway’.


Professor Bas Jonkman, that holds the prestigious chair Integrated Hydraulic Engineering at the Technical University Delft, agrees that in case the Netherlands is hit by a super storm the Dutch are not as safe as they would like to be. 'We are quite worried. Not that the dykes are on the brink to collapse, (...) but one third of the dykes do not meet the norms anymore. Along the coast the chance of bursting is once in every 10.000 years, for the dykes along the rivers this is once every 1.250 years.


According to the professor there is only one solution, and that is to start reinforcing dykes immediately. Especially the river dykes since they have suffered seriously from the increasingly humid climate. Jonkman: 'you do not solve the problem by thinking you can save Amsterdam by some extra emergency drills', (...) no planning phase of 5 to 10 years, this has to be taken on much more energetically'.


Apart from making new evacuation plans, the Dutch minister of infrastructure is urging for innovative ways of city planning and building. The Dutch will have to rethink the way they live with the water. Minister Schultz: ‘In my opinion it is much better that we build with nature in mind, than to come with technical solutions that go against nature. We already practice this new way of thinking by spraying sand in front of the coast, so the coastline is restored’.


Already since the disastrous river floods in 1993 and 1995 in the south of the Netherlands, the Dutch changed their approach by creating much more space for rivers to flood. Semi-floating houses have been drawn up and build, and agricultural areas and new city squares are totally redesigned to be used to store water during floods. But apparently much more needs to be done. The Dutch are not as safe as they think they are. 







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