The Dutch Delta Works; Making it all possible.
In the southwestern corner in The Netherlands lies a region home to approximately 2300 hectares of modern Dutch greenhouses, the Westland region. Not uncommon in the western part of The Netherlands, the majority of Westland is situated below sea level. Greenhouses in Westland are protected from the sea by dunes and dikes, but also by the Dutch Delta Works.
In 1953, after a disastrous flood in the North Sea that killed 1.835 people, displaced 70.000 more and caused damages worth 3.6 billion Euros today, the Dutch government has taken measures to protect the land against flooding which resulted into the Dutch Delta Works as we know them today.
The Delta program was designed to shorten the coastline by 725 kilometers (450mile) allowing for better coastal protection from the sea and to prevent further salination of the soil. The Dutch Delta Works entailed the construction of a series of dams, sluices, locks, dykes, levees and storm surge barriers around the Rhine-Meuse-Scheldt Delta which have prevented devastative floods, like the one in 1953, ever since.
Currently being the largest port of Europe, the Port of Rotterdam also lies in the river delta and obviously needed to remain fully accessible to the largest ships in the world. In 1997, the Dutch answer was in the form of a massive, movable, storm surge barrier placed in Hoek van Holland; the “Maeslantkering”. Two enormous horizontally arranged triangular hinging columns roughly the size of the Eiffel Tower can close off the gateway to the sea completely in case of heavy storms. Europe’s busiest port and the Netherlands’ second biggest city, Rotterdam, lies some 6 meters (20ft) below sea level and thus relies completely on this Delta Works storm surge barrier located on the edge of the greenhouse packed Westland region.
The famous storm barrier alone, the Maeslantkering, was completed at a cost of approximately half a billion Euros today, and was expected to close just once every 10 years, doubling this frequency by 2050. Economically but also politically the burden for this vast Dutch Delta project have been immense, but have proven to be a necessity. Within the context of climate change and increasing sea levels, the Dutch have set an example to the world by taking the necessary measures at any cost. This investment has created a safe environment for economic development which allows the Port of Rotterdam to remain one of worlds largest ports, allows the Netherlands to export its lessons learned in water management and also allows the Dutch agricultural and greenhouse industry to flourish.