Dutch build more dunes against rising seas

Nov 20, 2009 by Alix Rijckaert
Handout photo shows a bulldozer clearing sand on the beach in Monster in the Netherlands. Sand is being dredged from the bottom of the North Sea off the coast of the country to build dunes as part of an ambitious effort to safeguard the country from flooding.

On the beach at Monster, bulldozers painstakingly turn sand dredged from the bottom of the North Sea bed into dunes in an ambitious effort to safeguard the Netherlands from flooding.

Stretching more than 20 kilometres (15 miles) southwards from The Hague, the project is one of many in a never-ending battle against rising sea levels attributed to global warming.

"Because it is a low-lying delta, the Netherlands is very sensitive to ," Water Management Deputy Minister Tineke Huizinga told AFP on a recent visit to the bustling work site.

"If sea and river levels rise, the Netherlands will be under threat," Huizinga said, walking in yellow boots along a pipeline of several hundred metres (yards) spewing out dredged sand.

"Fortunately, the coast is safe today, but we are investing in the security of people who will live here in 50 years."

More than 18 million cubic metres of sand -- enough to fill 7,200 Olympic-sized swimming pools -- are set to be poured onto the new coastal band of dunes until 2011.

The project got underway last year at a total cost of 130 million euros (about 200 million dollars) to the Dutch state.

Sand is dredged from the bottom of the , about 15 kilometres from shore, by two specialised vessels that work in turns, day and night, before being relayed to the beach via the pipeline.

Bulldozers then amass the sand to create the dunes, broaden the beach and gain territory from the sea, metre by metre.

"We had no choice but to extend the coast towards the sea," the area's flood prevention chief Michiel van Haersma Buma told 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 -- 30 to 60 metres wide, and rising up to 10 metres above -- are going up next to an existing band of dunes. Covering them is a special type of grass with long roots to keep the sand intact.

"The more dunes there are, the less sea water can infiltrate," thus reducing the danger of contamination of fresh water inland, Haersma Buma explained.

When completed, the project would have made the 20-kilometre stretch of dune-lined beach up to 200 metres wide at low tide, compared to 180 metres at present.

The economic stakes are high: Up to 65 percent of the Netherlands' gross domestic product comes from areas that are located below sea level.

"We want to 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 would cause to the economy -- and that does not even take into account the social disruption and loss of life."

The government is due to unveil a new programme next year for protecting the nation from water-related consequences of global warming, at a cost to the state of around one billion euros (1.5 billion dollars) per year from 2020, water ministry spokeswoman Marie-Christine Lanser-Reusken told AFP.

In September last year, a government-appointed commission warned that the Netherlands must spend more than 100 billion euros over the next century on dike upgrades and coastal expansion.

The Delta commission predicted a sea level rise of between 0.65 and 1.3 metres (2.15 and 4.3 feet) by 2100, and said about nine million of the country's 16 million inhabitants already lived in areas directly shielded from the sea and rivers by dikes and dunes.

Floods in 1953 killed 1,835 people and left 72,000 homeless when a total 200,000 hectares of land in the southern provinces of Zeeland, Noord Brabant and Zuid-Holland were inundated.

(c) 2009 AFP

Explore further: US delays decision on Keystone pipeline project

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Dutch, making peace with water, tackle overcrowding

Oct 18, 2009

About a hundred houses float on a lake in the Amsterdam neighbourhood of Ijburg --a testament to how the Dutch are trying to turn their traditional enemy, water, into an ally against overcrowding.

Squeezing out dune plants

Sep 26, 2005

Researchers from Texas A&M University created a model to better understand the impacts of development and coastal erosion on plant communities, including plants that grow in the ever-shrinking strip of habitat between land ...

Dazzling Dunes on Mars

Aug 10, 2004

As NASA's Opportunity rover creeps farther into "Endurance Crater," the dune field on the crater floor appears even more dramatic. On the left, an approximate true-color image highlights the reddish-colored ...

Recommended for you

US delays decision on Keystone pipeline project

Apr 18, 2014

The United States announced Friday a fresh delay on a final decision regarding a controversial Canada to US oil pipeline, saying more time was needed to carry out a review.

New research on Earth's carbon budget

Apr 18, 2014

(Phys.org) —Results from a research project involving scientists from the Desert Research Institute have generated new findings surrounding some of the unknowns of changes in climate and the degree to which ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

China says massive area of its soil polluted

A huge area of China's soil covering more than twice the size of Spain is estimated to be polluted, the government said Thursday, announcing findings of a survey previously kept secret.

UN weather agency warns of 'El Nino' this year

The UN weather agency Tuesday warned there was a good chance of an "El Nino" climate phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean this year, bringing droughts and heavy rainfall to the rest of the world.

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...