Going Dutch could save us from rising seas

Had nature been left to take its course much of the Netherlands would be a muddy swamp and the tiny coastal nation would never have risen to be the eurozone's fifth largest economy.

AFP| Updated: Oct 29, 2015, 00:23 AM IST

Zeeland (Netherlands): Had nature been left to take its course much of the Netherlands would be a muddy swamp and the tiny coastal nation would never have risen to be the eurozone's fifth largest economy.

More than half of the country's 17 million people live in low-lying at risk areas, but thanks to hard work, perseverance and a lot of technical savvy they snuggle safely behind an ingenious network of 17,500 kilometres of dykes, dunes and barrages.

After struggling against the seas for hundreds of years, the Netherlands prides itself on being the "safest delta" on the planet and now exports its expertise around the world.

As water levels rise thanks to climate change and turbulent weather patterns unleash fierce storms, Dutch know-how in protecting low-lying areas has turned the country into the leader in its field.

"It's thanks to our history," infrastructure minister Mela nie Schultz van Haegen said.

"We have been battling for centuries to hold back the seas." Just like the legend of the boy who stuck his finger in crumbling dyke, necessity has been the mother of invention.

Dutch companies now account for some 40% of the global dredging business open to international competition. More than 70% of the country's gross domestic product is produced on land at risk of flooding.