November 20, 2009

Netherlands Takes Steps to Save Beaches from Flooding

The Dutch beach in Monster is currently inhabited by bulldozers that are piling sand taken from the bottom of the North Sea into dunes in a determined attempt to protect the Netherlands from flooding.

The ambitious project, located 15 miles south of The Hague, is one of several plans in a continued fight against increasing sea levels accredited to global warming.

"Because it is a low-lying delta, the Netherlands is very sensitive to climate change," Water Management Deputy Minister Tineke Huizinga said to the AFP. "If sea and river levels rise, the Netherlands will be under threat. Fortunately, the coast is safe today, but we are investing in the security of people who will live here in 50 years."

Enough sand to pack 7,200 Olympic-sized swimming pools will be piled onto the dunes until 2011. The development began in 2008, costing the Dutch state nearly 200 million dollars.

Sand is scoured from the North Sea, by two dedicated vessels that run day and night. Bulldozers then pile the sand and form dunes, and widen the beach.

"We had no choice but to extend the coast towards the sea," the area's flood prevention chief Michiel van Haersma Buma said to the AFP. "Our coast is relatively narrow. Houses and greenhouses lie just beyond the dunes. This area is so densely populated that we had no space to construct more dunes and dykes further inland."

The new dunes are being constructed next to existing dunes.

"The more dunes there are, the less sea water can infiltrate," thus reducing the chance of pollution of fresh water, Haersma Buma clarified.

The economic reasons for the costly project are intense: 65% of the Netherlands' gross domestic products are from regions below sea level.

"We want to be able to live and work in security," Huizinga said. "It is a big investment. But the cost of protecting this area is a fraction of the cost that a flood would cause to the economy -- and that does not even take into account the social disruption and loss of life."