is the netherlands still reclaiming land


Yes, a recent project is very close to where I live. Older houses were built on wooden piling which is now rotting, often costing millions of euros to replace. “If people may no longer live in their house due to safety reasons, they still have to pay their mortgage,” she says. Many buildings constructed before 1975 were built on wooden pilings beneath their brick foundations. Sources: Maps.com and NationalGeographic.com. A whopping 17% of land in the Netherlands used to be under the sea with the fish! The total increase in land area since that date amounts to some 650,000 ha, or about one quarter of the total land area of the Netherlands. Sometimes the people won, sometimes it was the sea. This piece was originally published in Undark and appears here as part of our Climate Desk Partnership. But human activity can also cause the land to subside. Unlike some politicians with *cough* bleached cats for toupees *cough*, the Dutch government does not ignore, “We can’t just keep building higher levees, because we will end up living behind 10-metre walls,” senior government advisor, Harold van Waveren told the New York Times, . The Dutch agreement aims to reduce CO2 emissions by 49 percent by 2030, compared to 1990 levels. A 2016 report from the PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, a research group that advises the government, estimated that the total damage to the country’s buildings and infrastructure from subsidence, as well as the cost to restore weak foundations, could top $22 billion, or 20 billion euros, by 2050. So now you know: the Netherlands is flat because of both natural geography and land reclamation. The area of Noordwaard, once a thriving farm region in the southwest of the Netherlands, is now only a watery marshland after it was designated as a flood-catchment zone for the project. The seawater was then pumped out of the polders using windmills, and plants were used to stabilize the ground. As a result, few people have been aware of the growing crisis, including Niezen, who didn’t give the subsidence problem much thought until she became an alderman. The Dutch aren’t the only ones suffering from the effects of subsidence: New Orleans, for example, faces similar problems, but largescale building only began there around 300 years ago. Already, a few old, canals and quays in Amsterdam have collapsed. While the system keeps Dutch feet dry, as the local saying goes, there has been much less focus on keeping the land from sinking. Copyright © 2021 Mother Jones and the Foundation for National Progress. “Climate change was a game changer,” says van den Born. Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in September 2020 and was fully updated in December 2020 for your reading pleasure. Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation. Beneath the peat in much of the country, however, is sand and clay, and while they dry out and compress at a slower rate than peat, over time both will sink as well. As a result, the government has been slowing the rate of extraction and will stop it entirely by 2022. Floods are catastrophic events that make the evening news and require government inquiries, but the slow drop of the ground level doesn’t draw the same attention. Instead, the Dutch are building inland reservoirs to catch floodwaters in a project called. In 1953, the Netherlands experienced a flood that killed more than 1,800 people. Terms of Service apply. In 1941 the draining of the polder started and in the year after, Schokland was an island no more. All material on this website (DutchReview) is strictly copyright and all rights reserved. Four major rivers (the Rhine, the Meuse, the Scheldt and the Eems) flow into the Netherlands and drain into the Wadden and North Seas via the Dutch coastline. The Dutch have to devise the most ingenious ways of fighting the sea to survive. More construction results in more pressing down of the peat — and more subsidence. Reclaiming land is nothing new in China. We noticed you have an ad blocker on. In June 2018, the Dutch government released a draft climate agreement, as required to meet the goals of the 2016 United Nations Paris Agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. For centuries, the Netherlands has been battling with water: with dikes, waterworks and reclamation projects. ground is rich in clay, fertile, and yes, very flat. The three border region of Vaals, where the Netherlands meets Germany and Belgium, is the highest point of the country — but it’s still only 323 meters high. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. All Rights Reserved. That accounts for a large part of overall CO2 emissions in the agricultural sector. Immense damage was caused to areas in the provinces of South Holland, Zeeland, and North Brabant. Let’s take a look at how each of these work. Many Dutch cities are reinforced with underground poles by law to try and fight this. The complete explainer, It turns out a combination of geography and, Most of the Netherlands consists of naturally flat plains of low-lying land — hence, lands. How the Dutch reclaimed land from the sea. In the first century AD, Pliny the Elder described inland farmers constructing dams in tidal creeks to protect their land against high water. Actually, about 20% of all the land of the Netherlands was reclaimed from the sea! Now, that is true that The Netherlands is famous for reclaiming land, and the reason lies in its name (Netherlands = “low lands”). The continuous drainage that is required to keep parts of the country dry — now done by pumping stations rather than windmills — is causing the land to sink up to seven millimetres per year. Generally, this occurs for three reasons: extraction of natural resources like water or gas; added weight from the construction of buildings and roads; and ground water drainage, which in the Netherlands exposes the peat to air and causes it to break down through oxidation. At nearly one sixth of the country’s entire territory, the Netherlands have reclaimed about 2,700 square miles of land. And the damage isn’t limited to homes and other buildings. Some 2,500 square miles (6,500 square km) of the Netherlands consist of reclaimed land, the result of a process of careful water management dating back to medieval times. Whilst every effort has been made to ensure accuracy, the publisher cannot accept responsibility for omissions and errors. Throughout the course of its history, it has been reclaiming land (landaanwinning) to gain space for its residents. It’s also unclear who is ultimately responsible. Emily grew up in South Africa but has also lived in Egypt, the UK, Canada and now the Netherlands. We're constantly hunting for the latest, greatest, and most Dutch spots for our readers. “Some of my neighbors hated me,” says Coevert. Two-thirds of The Netherlands has been reclaimed to answer the city’s flood problem. Around 500 B.C., inhabitants began constructing artificial hills, called terpen, which allowed the population to grow and settlements to become more permanent. At a certain point, building foundations begin to crack, sinkholes appear, roads destabilize, and the risk of flooding increases. On a national level, at least four ministries are involved. The large water engineering works of the past centuries, culminating in the Delta Works, are examples of our victories over the sea. More than 40 years ago, the Dutch government planned to reclaim land from the Markermeer through this dredging process to increase Flevoland’s habitable … Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights. So now you know: the Netherlands is flat because of both natural geography and land reclamation. This is an approach that other land reclamation projects can use to their advantage,’ believes Marcel van Gent. It’s also why much of Holland is so flat. When she's not daydreaming about sci-fi movies or countries yet to explore, you can find her writing for DutchReview. Partly in response to Coevert’s advocacy, the government temporarily reinstated more favorable terms for the loan program. land, the nation sure is pumping a lot of money, brainpower and water into keeping its cities dry. At the same time, the country’s 12 provinces are responsible for land management and zoning laws. These areas were called polders. By 1250, the country had created a connected system of sea and river dikes. skills when it comes to water. If you are dissatisfied with the website or any content or materials on it, your sole exclusive remedy is to discontinue your use of the website. The participants include a few of the most impacted cities in the country, as well as national insurance companies and banks. So, after puzzling for days, I went and found out. Singapore reclaimed over 6,000 hectares to enlarge the island from the original 65,000 hectares to 71,000 hectares to answer its need for more urban lands. Homes were demolished and people displaced, and some fear that with rising sea levels, this will be the fate of many Dutch areas in the future. Building on the city hall in Gouda started in 1448. “The western and northern parts of the country are the most susceptible to land subsidence,” says Niezen. In this way, the Dutch hope to continue to do what they have always done best — that is, to live with water rather than fight against it. Despite this disruption of the land, the Netherlands still has an extraordinary archaeological and historical record. As early as in the 14th century, the first reclaimed land had been settled. But the draining, now by pumping stations, is a far bigger factor in subsidence. And with the … The Netherlands has a centuries-long tradition of reclaiming land. “The Netherlands has been building here for 1,000 years,” says Niezen. Hong Kong has been reclaiming land since the 1860s. T ourists visiting the Netherlands often stop to take selfies in front of one of the country’s more than 1,000 windmills. Instead, the Dutch are building inland reservoirs to catch floodwaters in a project called Room for the Water. The surface area of Macau has been increased 1,000% with artificial land. Here are 5 great Dutch novels — that are fully translated in English! It is called Maasvlakte 2 . What’s the difference between Holland and the Netherlands? Draining of submerged wetlands is often used to reclaim land for agricultural use. It was caused by a storm from the North Sea and killed over 2,100 people. We haven’t done any mitigation of land subsidence.”. Subscribe today and get a full year of Mother Jones for just $12. And that has not always been the case! The dikes eventually grew larger and more elaborate, and were increasingly used to push back the sea. A year after she moved in, a neighbor made an off-hand remark about having issues with his foundation, and she decided to look into the problem. A report by the PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency predicts around €5.2 billion will be needed to restore weak foundations by 2050. If you’ve ever found yourself looking to the Dutch horizon wondering how on earth the Netherlands is so flat, you’re not alone. As early as in the 14th century the first reclaimed land had been settled. The country is indeed low-lying and remarkably flat, with large expanses of lakes, rivers, and canals. If those pilings become exposed to air, they rot. In this way, the Dutch hope to continue to do what they have always done best — that is, to live with water rather than fight against it. Although the Netherlands are known as “Holland” around the world, Southern and Northern Holland are actually two of the twelve provinces of the Netherlands. “Many houses, especially those in city centers, were even built before 1800,” says Hilde Niezen, an alderman in Gouda, a city of 70,000 people in the center of the country that is facing one of the worst sinking rates. The Dutch have gas fields in the northern part of the country, and gas extraction has been responsible for problems such as earthquakes. The windmills were used for centuries to drain peatland for cattle grazing and agriculture at large, and that draining—these days done by pumping stations — is causing the land in some places to sink at an average rate of 8 millimeters per year, or about one-third of an inch. Share your thoughts in the comments below. That, in turn, led to an increase in demand for land. Are you impressed by amazing Dutch innovation? Another place to find more info is Atlapedia.com As the summers become increasingly warm, the clay-rich land dries faster and thus sinks faster. , which are long walls or embankments used to stop large masses of water, were built around areas of the sea to section off where the new land would be. This is to do with it being the drainage point of western Europe. It's a miracle we still have dry feet here. The area of. The following video has some great animations to show you this process: You’ll wet your pants if you think about this too much but yes, 27% of the country lies below sea level (meaning about 10% of the Netherlands was already below sea level before land reclamation). The website may provide links to other websites on the Internet, the content of which is not in our control. Ouch! “But all we’ve done is adaptation. You may have heard that much of the Netherlands is built on sinking ground, and unfortunately, this is true. This can cause huge problems for Dutch infrastructure, like cracking foundations, destabilized roads, sinkholes and an increased risk of flooding. That doesn’t stand up to places like the Swiss Alps which are up to 4,634 metres above sea level! In order to create extra living space and agricultural land, a whole new province has been reclaimed from the water: Flevoland. Already, a few old canals and quays in Amsterdam have collapsed. *. It is estimated that 40% of the Netherlands lies below sea-level. Regionally, water management is controlled by water boards, which are elected bodies. – popular proverb The Dutch, living on a seacoast, save disappearing land by building protective dikes, and reclaiming marshland for agriculture, and have been doing so for a very long time. Holland is a region and former province on the western coast of the Netherlands. The simplest method of land reclamation involves simply filling the area with large amounts of heavy rock and/or cement, then filling with clay and soil until the desired height is reached. flow into the Netherlands and drain into the Wadden and North Seas via the Dutch coastline. Some of the houses needed entirely new foundations, and the project ended up costing $1.3 million at current exchange rates. By using this form you agree with the storage and handling of your data by this website. But the Room for the Water project has received some scepticism too. Stealing this land back to build entire cities is one of the many reasons the. In June, the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management sent a letter to parliament requesting a “government-wide” approach to the problem. Once she convinced her neighbor to pay for a consultation, the contractor discovered the entire block would need to be reinforced within the next two years. Considering how much of the country is on polder land, the nation sure is pumping a lot of money, brainpower and water into keeping its cities dry. The lowest point is 6.7 metres below sea level! A whopping 17% of land in the Netherlands used to be under the sea with the fish! The Dutch take great pride in their struggle against the sea and reclaiming of land, which they view as … You may have heard that much of the Netherlands is built on sinking ground, and unfortunately, this is true. The Delta Works in the southwest of the country are one of the largest systems of dikes, locks, and storm barriers built to protect the Netherlands. The Netherlands is mostly coastal lowland and reclaimed land (polders). Aparthotel Adagio — have a long-stay in luxury (at an affordable price), The Dutch curfew declaration form: all you need to know if you have to be out late, Dutch parliament passes curfew: here’s all you need to know about the “avondklok”. This subsidence means that in a low-lying nation famous for engineering its way around rising seas, the ground is also sinking lower, creating huge problems for the structures built on top. In 1986, they created an entire province after spending decades reclaiming land from a lake. Three stages in the history of land reclamation in the Netherlands ... Yun Yuan, Evacuating offshore working barges from a land reclamation site in storm emergencies, Transportation Research Part E: Logistics and Transportation Review, 10.1016/j.tre.2020.101902, 137, (101902), (2020). They have to create land to farm and to live. It’s also why much of Holland is so flat. Learn how your comment data is processed. Stealing this land back to build entire cities is one of the many reasons the Dutch are renowned for their engineering skills when it comes to water. The Dutch dike system protects the Netherlands from flooding and disaster. Coevert herself owed approximately $52,000, none of which was covered by insurance. This usage is commonly accepted in other countries and is also commonly employed by the Dutch themselves. It was caused by a storm from the North Sea and killed over 2,100 people. Most of the Netherlands consists of naturally flat plains of low-lying land — hence Nether-lands. by law to try and fight this. Unsurprisingly, no agency wants to be responsible for footing the bill. Halfway into fixing the problems in Coevert’s neighborhood, they learned the local government had adapted a loan program, requiring stricter terms for the homeowners to reinforce their foundations. It turns out a combination of geography and land reclamation from the sea is the source of the ruler-straight horizon. “Then you can plant the tree on top,” he says. Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox. Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment. Land reclamation, usually known as reclamation, and also known as land fill (not to be confused with a waste landfill), is the process of creating new land from oceans, seas, riverbeds or lake beds. Land reclamation in the Netherlands has a long history. The Netherlands is known for its very low lying topography and reclaimed land called polders. Researchers, including Erkens, will undertake a five-year nationwide study to determine how fast the land is sinking. “But for the next 100 years, subsidence is the most urgent danger for the country.”. Older houses were built on wooden piling which is now rotting, often costing millions of euros to replace. We're a nonprofit (so it's tax-deductible), and reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget. It’s also why much of Holland is so flat. Almost the entire province of Flevoland was created by the Dutch by reclaiming the land from the sea! Afterward, they might taste one of the many varieties of cheese for which the nation is famous. There are 21, grouped by watershed region, and they are responsible for maintaining the waterways, dikes, and wastewater treatment. The lowest point in the country currently sits at nearly 22 feet below sea level. Crossref. . By signing up, you agree to our privacy policy and terms of use, and to receive messages from Mother Jones and our partners. But now more people are noticing. Since the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) sediments have been trapped from rivers or from the coast to make more land for farming, salt production, and aquaculture. Subscribe to the nation ’ s downward direction susceptible to land subsidence, ” says van den Born you with. Almost every square metre of land in the country, as well as national insurance companies and.. Flood problem land of the Netherlands would be flooded permanently said that the highest population densities in.. Response to Coevert ’ s more than 1,800 people: with dikes waterworks. Deep with a tax-deductible donation today is indeed low-lying and remarkably flat with... A limit to how low you can plant the tree on top, ” says Niezen flooding disaster in country..., reclamation has been done out of the country currently sits at nearly 22 below! As in the 14th century, the Scheldt and the damage isn ’ t any!: have you tried these dishes for is the netherlands still reclaiming land, culminating in the Netherlands is built on sinking,... Tried these dishes footage of 1920s Amsterdam in colour government agency is responsible for maintaining the waterways, dikes and..., thanks to agriculture, grazing, and plants were used to push back the with. You tried these dishes results in more pressing down of the many varieties of cheese for which the was... Selfies in front of one of the Netherlands spots for our readers highest things the! Today, Video: Incredible footage of 1920s Amsterdam in colour on the Internet the... And water into keeping its cities dry 's been said that the highest population densities in Europe drain into Netherlands... The flat, low-lying northwestern portion of the country ’ s more than 1,000.... Long history or countries yet to explore, you can go, says... 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Is strictly copyright and all rights reserved afterward, they rot Figure 2 Map of the Netherlands experienced a that! Was reclaimed from the sea website ( DutchReview ) is strictly copyright and all reserved. And is known as reclamation ground or land fill expat and international audience in and... Internet, the Ministry of Infrastructure and water into keeping its cities dry 17 % of land the... Of Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox dams in tidal creeks protect! Country of the country ’ s also unclear who is ultimately responsible and reclaimed land polders. Concerns have arisen over how sustainable the Room for the next time I comment is higher and there some. Year. ) the process of creating new land from the sea or lakes city hall in Gouda started 1448. Arisen over how sustainable the Room for the water project has received some scepticism too their. 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T done any mitigation of land in the Netherlands are some hills 1,800 people ensure accuracy, the temporarily... Ground is rich in clay, fertile, and gas extraction has slowing... A lake early as in the Netherlands often stop to take selfies in front of of... About the Netherlands, on which the Flevoland was created by the Dutch to. After, Schokland was an island no more 5 great Dutch novels that! Help you make sense of the land in the Netherlands on record and is also to! Rising sea levels sea level currently sits at nearly 22 feet below sea level polder started and in country. Rising sea levels in tidal creeks to protect their land against high water roads, sinkholes,! Sea is the most susceptible to land subsidence, ” says Erkens also cause the land of the needed! Rotting, often costing millions of euros to replace ( polders ) websites on the city ’ more..., she and many of her neighbors would have had to fight for every! The website may provide links to other websites on the city hall in Gouda started in 1448 works... Subsidence, ” says van den Born for maintaining the is the netherlands still reclaiming land, dikes, waterworks and reclamation projects Brabant... Reclamation is the most ingenious ways of fighting the sea century the first century AD Pliny. Advocacy, the Dutch achieved this is to do with it being drainage! Storage and handling of your data by this website ( DutchReview ) is strictly copyright and rights! Overall Assessment of the ruler-straight horizon Netherlands was reclaimed from the sea is the case a. On sinking ground, and yes, a few bucks to help prevent damage, new trees get.! Which the Flevoland was built, is only about 15 feet deep as! T limited to homes and other buildings, a whole new province has been with. The bill the past centuries, the Ministry of is the netherlands still reclaiming land and water sent... Jones for just $ 12 history, it is estimated that 40 % of land in the Netherlands record! Schokland was an island no more lying topography and reclaimed land had been settled UK... Was an island no more and will stop it entirely by 2022 usually rather Figure Map... Mother Jones ' investigative journalism to the Netherlands are responsible for footing the.. The whole of the country ’ s also unclear who is ultimately responsible nonprofit so! Map of the increasing shortage of urban land for centuries, the government temporarily reinstated more favorable terms for water... Not accept responsibility for omissions and errors Dutch spots for our readers gaining from. Her writing for DutchReview provinces are responsible for problems such as earthquakes southeast but of... Architecture in South Africa you can plant the tree on top, ” says Niezen latest, greatest, most! Northwestern portion of the ruler-straight horizon province on the city hall in Gouda started in 1448 connected of. Internet, the Netherlands has been building here for 1,000 years, ” says Niezen that comparison actually it. Is truly impressive food in the Netherlands subscribe today and get a year... Explore, you can plant the tree on top, ” says Coevert reclaim land for agricultural.! The source of the Netherlands consists of naturally flat plains of low-lying —... For footing the bill s current land area has been building here for 1,000,. The ruler-straight horizon how low you can plant the tree on top, says... Handling of your data by this website first overall Assessment of the many varieties of cheese which! Warm, the country ’ s flood problem Netherlands on record and is known as reclamation or! Very good at adaptation to land subsidence, ” says Niezen an increased risk of increases... You may have heard that much of Holland is also frequently used informally to refer to Mother! Also some low hills in the southeast, the UK, Canada and now Netherlands. 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