April 4, 2013

Nineteenth century Netherlands plans to reclaim everything

Filed under: Architecture,Technology by Branko Collin @ 10:10 am

This map by Belgian citizen and inventor Jerôme Wenmaekers from 1876 shows his plans to reclaim the entire Zuiderzee, including the Wadden Sea.

According to De Verdieping van Nederland, Wenmaekers plans required the use of his own dike building machines, but the inventor would not release the plans for those until he got the reclamation concession. On the other hand, the minister of public works would not approve the plan as long as he could not see how the machines worked. Both parties remained in that deadlock and in the end it was Cornelis Lely whose plans were used.

Lely’s plan was much less ambitious, but still very ambitious—his Flevoland polder is the largest artificial island in the world by a wide margin.

The green inset in this second map from 1866 shows the area Wenmaekers wanted to reclaim. According to NRC, for 70 years (between 1850 and 1920) the Dutch discussed what to do with the country’s ‘wet heart’, which led to at least 581 publications. One plan even called for the reclamation of the North Sea.

(Source: Nationaal Archief, via Martin Wisse)

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February 18, 2013

How to build bigger floodplains

Filed under: Nature,Sustainability by Branko Collin @ 1:08 pm

‘Room for the River’ is a Dutch state project that intends to widen the floodplains of the major rivers.

The project does something that is quite rare for the Dutch, it gives land back to the water. In 1993 and 1995 we had major river floods, the latter even leading to the evacuation of 250,000 people. Geographically, the Netherlands is a river delta, and the Dutch have always had to live with river floods. However, today the population pressure has made the consequences of floods much more expensive.

As the project website says: “The rivers are wedged between increasingly higher dikes behind which more and more people live. At the same time, the land behind the dikes has sunk. It is also raining more often and harder, causing rivers to swell. Water levels are rising and so is the chance of floods with a large impact on people, animals, infrastructure and the economy.”

The New York Times has visited one of those projects and uses it for an opinion piece on how big government is good.

Short read: The Ruimte voor de Rivier site has Nine easy infographics on how to give the river room.

(Photo: Waal beach by Rijkswaterstaat / Ruimte voor de Rivier / Martin van Lokven)

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November 11, 2012

Love letter to the landscape of Holland

Filed under: General by Branko Collin @ 10:14 am

American blogger Abi Sutherland currently lives just North of Amsterdam, and she is slowly getting used to the fact that there are no mountains here:

This is a good spot. The bike path runs between two strips of water, both bright with reflected sky. To my right is a narrow patch of reeds, its leaves beginning to turn purple-brown with autumn. The last light of the day gives them a bit of its orange, a parting gift of warmth and richness. To my left, the fields stretch out for kilometers, flat and treeless. Only the livestock and the woodwork—bridges and little stretches of fence—break the landscape between me and the outlines of the distant trees and towns. Above it all, the sky is full of light.


This is nothing like anything I have ever known. If my love of California came through the front door and my love of Scotland through the side, this sudden, inarticulate love of the Netherlands is the unexpected guest who appears one day in the living room, ringing no bell and answering no invitation. And yet here it is, and it draws me out of the house and away from the cities every bright day. I go out for half-hour rides and come back three hours later, windblown and bright-eyed.

Go read.

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June 1, 2010

Football players wanted for September polder cup

Filed under: Art,Nature,Sports by Branko Collin @ 8:35 am

Spanish artist Maider López is organising a football tournament on September 3 and is looking for both participants and an audience.

The tournament called Polder Cup will take place on the pastures of Ottoland in South Holland, halfway between Utrecht and Rotterdam. Contestants will be given food, drink and swag all for coming out to the middle of nowhere (using the charter bus of the project) and having their picture taken.

What’s the catch? Is there a catch? There is always a catch! As you can see in the photo, the pitches will be drawn across drainage ditches, and the players are expected to come up with their own rules and methods for dealing with these hazards. If you want to know beforehand how to fish a ball from a brook, check out Hans van der Meer’s photo book on Dutch football pitches. As for crossing ditches, see here.

(Link: Bright. Photo: poldercup.nl.)

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May 15, 2010

Angry citizens remove ‘illegal’ dam

Filed under: Architecture,Nature by Branko Collin @ 2:01 pm

Last week inhabitants of the Horstermeer polder just south of Amsterdam removed a 10 ton weir placed there by the AGV water board (Amstel, Gooi and Vecht regions). They claim the dam creates a dangerous situation.

The water board wants to let nature run its course in a part of the polder by letting water levels rise, effectively turning part of the polder into marshland. The inhabitants fear that since their houses are typically located at the lowest point of the polder, the centre, these higher water levels will damage their properties.

According to the polder dwellers, the water board never filed official plans for their dam, so that the inhabitants could not legally protest its placement. The water board has reported the theft of a weir to the police.

Water boards are a parallel government in the Netherlands for the management of water.

Video: Republiek Horstermeerpolder.

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