Netherlands must act to avoid future disaster

Netherlands must act to avoid future disaster

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Netherlands must act to avoid future disaster.

The Dutch government will have to spend more than one bil
 Delta Works sea defences built following the floods of 1953
lion euros a year until 2100 to extend and strengthen dykes and safeguard its ability to manage the waters that surround and run through the country. This is to ensure the country can face the dangers of rising sea levels resulting from climate change in the next 100 years. 
Sea levels are expected to rise by over a metre before the year 2100, and up to four metres in 200 years time. With so many parts of the country be
low sea level, measures have to be taken. Photo above:  Delta Works sea defences built following the floods of 1953.

These are the main findings of the Delta Committee - a special body set up to report to the Dutch government - which published its report on Wednesday. 

Right to protection
"Every Dutch citizen has a right to be protected against the dangers of water and has the right to have access to safe drinking water in the future". With this simple statement as its starting point, the Delta Committee has produced a report recommending that many, very complex measures need be taken to ensure The Netherlands is protected against climate change.

The committee was headed by Cees Veerman, former agricultural minister. His findings are threefold, as he explains: "We have a lot of levees [dykes] that are below standard and that we have to restore. Secondly: We have a total different perception of what water safety is, so we have to increase the norms [for] risks, and the third one is that we have climate change and that will cause a sea-level rise and a more spontaneous flooding of rivers. Especially the River Rhine."

No nightmares
Even though it may sound otherwise, Mr Veerman says the contents of the report are not a nightmare scenario. They provide an open-minded view of the future and come with a clear message: the Dutch will have to work hard to ensure they can live safely in their country, and it is possible to take the necessary measures and pay for them too.

Mr Veerman says the Netherlands has a long history of constructing dykes and of making them as strong and as secure as possible. He explains that there's now a need to build special defences around the port city of Rotterdam and: "we have to broaden the coast in order to have a more safe shore, so that we don't have to fear that parts of the Netherlands will flood because of the sea-level rise caused by climate change."

The committee's report "Working together with water" highlights the urgency of a new Delta Plan, as a follow up to the original plan which was drawn up after the disastrous floods of 1953, in which more than 1800 people were killed. The focus of the original plan was very clear: the Netherlands had to be a safe place to live. The new programme, however, has to deal with many uncertainties, and Mr Veerman admits that it is unclear whether all the predicted changes will really happen.

Ten times greater
According to the report, the protection afforded by dykes and levees needs to be ten times greater than it is now. With that, the risk factor of another disastrous flood will be limited to a chance of one occuring in every 100,000 years.

The total cost of all the measures proposed has been estimated at approximately one to one-and-a-half billion euros per year. The total cost could rise as high as to 1800 billion euros. But even with these measures, as Mr Veerman explains, it won't be possible to guarantee 100-percent protection against flooding

"We can not guarantee that, but we can do our best to take precautions and take measures to be as safe as we are now."The report has been welcomed by Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, who says his cabinet will present a new Delta Bill next year to start putting the recommendations into effect.
Willemien Groot  
8 September 2008
Radio Netherlands

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