Netherlands Case Study

Netherlands Case Study

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Netherlands Case Study

The Netherlands is situated in northwest Europe. It is a small country
with an area of 41,863 sq km much of which is flat ground. This
classic home of windmills and tulips, is in a constant battle with the
sea to save its land. In that effort it uses 1,500 miles of dykes, a
tidal barrage and additional innovative technologies to protect itself
from floods.

On 31st January 1995 the Rhine burst its banks at the point where the
Rhine enters the Netherlands. Much of the land is low lying, enclosed
by dykes; these are called polders. In this flood the polders became
flooded causing roads to become impassable. The floods were caused by
natural causes such as early melting snow in the Alps and heavy
precipitation. In some parts heavy rain continued from November 1994
to February 1995. In addition Switzerland was affected with three
times its January average rainfall. Rivers carried on flooding after
the rain ended as the amount of discharge kept increasing; rain was
rapidly transferred to rivers as overland flow.

Other factors’ contributing to the floods was due to human
intervention.. River channels were changed to accommodate the size and
shape of transportation vessels causing faster flow downstream.
Urbanisation of the floodplain reduces storage capacity and speeds up
runoff sending more water to the river than the fields, which they
replaced. Dams upstream trap sediment and speed up the flow
downstream. Meander bends were straightened to improve navigability
and speed flow. The river became 100 km shorter and 30% faster as a
result. In addition upstream engineering narrowed the river
floodplain, and two thousand islands were removed and the riverbed
lowered by erosion. Due to this the floodplain storage capacity was
reduced by 60%. Even simple causes such as deforestation upstream
could have affected the flood and changes in farming practices may
have also contributed to a reduction in the storage capacity of the

[IMAGE]The floods in January 1995 effected many people and killed four

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in total. People were also affected with flooded homes, leading to
250,000 people being evacuated. Police and soldiers guarded the empty
houses against looters. Some farmers lost money due to cattle being
evacuated, which led to some of them, being infected with foot rot and
reduced milk yields because of the disturbance. Greenhouses were
flooded and stocks of flowers, fruit and vegetables were lost.
Waterways were closed to ships for two weeks; many oil and dry bulk
barges were stranded.

Naturally the environment was effected by the floods. Many of the
protective dykes were made of sand and clay, which became saturated
because of prolonged high river levels. This resulted in many of them
collapsing so emergency reinforcement work had to be carried out. The
floods left flooded farmland with a layer of very fertilized silt,
which benefited the farmers the following years as it was rich in
nutrients which helped the crops to grow well.

Although flood damage was high, a full-scale disaster was avoided
because the authorities were well prepared and emergency procedures
were effective. Short-term relief in the Netherlands consisted of
sandbags and temporary barriers across doors and windows. Also doors
and window frames were sealed with a putty frame that expands when it
gets wet. Temporary dykes were constructed. Roads, subways, and
underground car parks were cleared and closed at risk of flooding.
Portable pumps were also installed.

Response to securing the Netherlands in the future from floods was
quick. There was international co-operation in managing the Rhine’s
basin, to control future flooding in the rivers valley. After the
flood in the Netherlands in 1953 £5 billion was spent on a system of
protective dykes after the floods drowned 1,800 people. Another £1
billion was spent on further flood protection after the 1995 floods.
In addition to just adding normal dykes, some were lined with stone to
prevent further erosion.

People wanted to allow the river to flow back through former marshland
areas that had been sealed off for navigation purposes. Although this
absorbs more floodwater and creates a haven for wildlife it may slow
the speed of water movement in the main channel and this may encourage
the deposition of silt on the riverbed.

It is conclusive to say that the Netherlands are prepared for flooding
and have taken steps to protect the country from floods. This may have
been due to the major flooding in 1953, which caused the government to
spend a lot of money on flood protection. Although in 1995
the dykes, that had been created after the 1953 floods, could not
withstand the effects of the floods, resulting from heavy rain and
early melting snow, the damage caused was not so disastrous as that in
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