Below Sea Level: In the Netherlands

Some of the most advanced thinking and practical implementation of preparation for sea level rise has taken place in the Netherlands. This low-lying country was severely flooded in 1953 and as a result, several thousand people died. While the Dutch had been altering their landscape for centuries and had undertaken the Zuiderzee works in the mid 20th century, the Delta Plan was in direct response to the 1953 storm. Thirteen dams were planned and built to close all the river mouths to the sea including the Oosterscheldekering, which is a storm barrier not a permanently closed dam. The Dutch understanding of living with rising water levels has evolved over centuries. The success of Dutch hydrology is cause for a cautious optimism as sea level rise advances. Make no mistake though: this can’t be done without a tremendous allocation of resources and a strong collective will.