Autumn 2016

The catastrophic flood of 1953 cost the lives of more than 1,800 people in the Netherlands and claimed over 300 victims in the United Kingdom. The number of animals that died was even greater. The disaster motivated both countries to substantially improve the coastal defences with extensive storm surge barriers. Numerous protection programmes have been initiated over the past decades and geosynthetics have played a role in some.

The catastrophic flood of 1953 cost the lives of more than 1,800 people in the Netherlands and claimed over 300 victims in the United Kingdom

The disastrous flood of 1953 was the impetus for developing substantially improved coastal defences by building extensive storm surge barriers: in the Netherlands the Delta Works; in England the Thames Barrier and the Hull Tidal Surge Barrier. 

england-flood swans

After the high waters of 1993 and 1995, the Delta Plan for Major Rivers was implemented. In the period up to 2002, the vulnerable dykes and quays along the major rivers were raised and reinforced. 

nederland rivierenland
The Netherlands is situated on the sea and in the delta of three large rivers, the Maas, Schelde and Rhine, with the IJssel – although a tributary of the Rhine – as a good fourth. Over 18% of the surface area consists of water and a little over a quarter of our country lies below sea level

As far as the Netherlands is concerned, the work on the dykes is unending. Therefore, it’s necessary to explore better, quicker and cheaper ways of raising and strengthening dykes. A number of trans-project studies have been initiated within the Flood Protection Programme, with considerable attention being paid to knowledge and product innovation. Simply increasing the height and width of dyke bodies is not always an adequate response. Dykes must also become more intelligent. That’s why the water authorities and the government launched the trans-project research programme Piping. The aim is to devise innovative and effective solutions for piping, a significant failure mechanism. As the result of a large difference in water levels, water can stream through a quay or dyke, causing leaching. This can create small tunnels that weaken the structure, ultimately leading to subsidence or a dyke breach.

The Netherlands behind the dykes is subsiding slightly. This make the land vulnerable to flooding from the major rivers, the lakes, the North Sea and the Wadden Sea. In the Netherlands there are more than 3,500 kilometres of dykes, dams and dunes, which are crucial for safety; there is also some 523 kilometres of coastline. The Westfriese Omringdijk (photo) once protected people and animals against the sea

The Netherlands is also involved internationally in water management. It occupies a leading position in the field of integral water management. The country makes a key contribution, particularly in terms of expertise, to no fewer than 426 projects of the Dutch water sector worldwide. The proposed approach of the Netherlands to worldwide water problems is defined in ‘Converging Streams’, the International Water Ambition (IWA). 

Special Envoy for International Water Affairs Henk Ovink is thematic ambassador for the IWA of the Netherlands. He was actively involved in the Rebuild by Design programme in the US. ‘The Netherlands is traditionally one of the few countries with a true water culture’, said the water envoy in the 2016 spring edition of txtures. ‘That culture is visible in the way we have created and organised our country. The Dutch delta and water technology and our maritime sector are distinctive worldwide.’

Blue fabric (Tecawork Blue 65287)