Monday, March 9, 2009

Before the Deluge

This is what I call long-term planning.

The Dutch are embarking on a decades-long plan to improve their flood-control system because they're afraid that rising sea levels from global warming will threaten their low-lying country. The effort, which the government says could cost €1 billion ($1.27 billion) a year through 2100, would include massive, decades-long public works, such as raising dikes and reinforcing storm barriers.

Imagine looking out a century. Hereabouts the next three months are long-term.

Existing Dutch flood defenses include the Maeslant barrier

"We have the best system of flood protection in the world today, but we have to start preparing for the future," says Cees Veerman, a former agriculture minister who headed a recent government commission that recommended the overhaul of the nation's flood defenses. "Climate change and rising sea levels will affect our coastal defenses and our rivers," Mr. Veerman says. "We must take action now to ensure that our citizens are safe in the centuries to come."

Massive gates pivot closed to protect Rotterdam and environs

There is a website (, one of the biggest and most complete online resources of information about the deltaworks and water management in the Netherlands.

The Dutch campaign is still in its early stages, and lawmakers still have to make important decisions such as how to ensure its long-term financing. But the initiative is likely to have an impact far beyond the shores of this Northern European country of 16 million residents. The Dutch are leaders in water management, and its engineers, dredging companies and consultants work in flood-prone areas around the world. Dutch engineers traveled to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina to study why the levees broke, and have advised governments as far afield as Vietnam and Bangladesh.

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