A committee charged with investigating the future effect of rising sea levels on the Netherlands delivered its findings today. The 'Delta Committee' headed by former minister Cees Veerman says large-scale work is needed to extend and strengthen dykes in the Netherlands.
The Delta committee concludes that the level of protection against flooding needs to be ten times greater than it is at present. It recommends that the process of pumping extra sand to reinforce the North Sea coast needs to continue. Where necessary, shipping channels will have to be relocated.
A quarter of all the current sea defences fail to meet legal safety standards, and the committee also concludes that the present standards are, in fact, by no means strict enough. It points out that 65 percent of the country's assets - valued at some 1800 billion euros, according to a conservative estimate - are in areas that are liable to flooding.[...]
Two-thirds of the Netherlands' 16 million people live below sea level, mostly on land reclaimed from the sea over the centuries and protected by high banks of sand.“We're not trying to scare people, because there's still time to act,” commission chairman Cees Veerman said in handing the report to Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende in a nationally televised news conference.
Mr. Balkenende promised to begin drafting its recommendations into Rising sea levels:Dutch dykes in need of massive overhaulimmediately.
Dutch policy-makers have, until now, prepared for a rise in sea level of around 80 centimetres by 2100. The commission said the country must plan for a rise in the North Sea by as much as 1.3 metres by 2100, and by up to four metres by 2200.
The commission was created in September, 2007, after the world witnessed the damage caused by hurricane Katrina in Louisiana. Among other things, the Dutch began drawing up plans for worst-case scenarios that included evacuations " unthinkable politically just a few years ago.
Specific recommendations include improving dikes' strength “by a factor of 10,” using offshore sand supplementation to broaden dunes that guard much of the country's central coast and strengthening sea dikes.
The country's worst flood in living memory was a 1953 disaster in which a storm surge drove water along the Dutch coast more than four metres above normal levels, breaching defences and killing more than 1,800 people.
“Throughout history, we have made water plans after a disaster,” Sybe Schaap, the country's chief water official, told NOS news. “What is unique about this plan is that it has been drawn up before a disaster.”