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High Road to Culture in Flanders and the Netherlands

Water and the Netherlands. Friends or Foes?
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Water and the Netherlands. Friends or Foes?

(Hubert Savenije) The Low Countries - 1996, № 4, pp. 12-18

This is an article from our print archives. Please be patient as we have to scan it

In the last week of January and the first week of February 1995, during an exceptionally high flood in the Maas (or Meuse) and Rhine rivers, there were large-scale evacuations of people and livestock from the embanked flood plains where the Maas and Rhine rivers meet, for fear of a disaster. These embanked flood plains, or holmes, which in Dutch are called ‘waarden' , lie up to four metres below flood level behind high river dikes. According to plan, these dikes should have a probability of failure of only once in 1,250 years, but due to administrative and political delays, large parts of them had not been strengthened or raised to design level for many years, and the situation became critical. Most of the outside world was under the impression that the Netherlands was entirely flooded and that finally the water was claiming back the land that the Dutch had conquered from the sea with so much effort. However, the impression given by the media was inaccurate. During the 1995 floods in the Netherlands, no dike failed and no inundation occurred in places protected against flooding. The author offers a look at the history of flood protection in the Netherlands and the role that the fight against water has played in the creation of the State.

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