Under the Sea…

NederlandvolgensNAP.PNGIt’s pretty obvious when you get a first glimpse of the Netherlands, that the country is flat.  Very flat… 🙂 In fact, you can often see for miles around.  And what’s more, a quarter of the land is below sea level.  So if there was no protection from the sea, 25% of the country would be under water. It’s quite a scary thought really.  If global warming really happens and sea levels rise, the Dutch will find themselves in a very dodgy place.

On the map here you can clearly see all the parts of the Netherlands that are below seawater and would be at risk of flooding. At its lowest point the country is 6.7 meters (22 feet) below sea level.  That is nearly the same as the height of a 2-storey house…

Did you know that…

In Dutch the word Netherlands means ‘Low Lands’.  The old-English word ‘nether’ means exactly the same and the French call the Netherlands ‘Les Pays-bas’, which also means ‘the low countries’.  I guess we’re all agreed then, they’re very, very low… 🙂

Fight against the tide

The Dutch have always had to fight against the water, and the country has flooded many times. The sand dunes on the west and north coast have been a natural barrier against the sea but are not enough protection. To stop the water from flooding the country again and again, the Dutch have had to become masters at water management.

Windmill in Norg

In the 17th century they learned how to make polders – where low-lying land is surrounded by dikes to stop the land from flooding. They used thousands of windmills to pump out the water and these days you can still find windmills everywhere.

Planning for the future

In the end windmills were still not enough though. After a very bad flood in 1953, which killed thousands of people, the Dutch built massive barriers all along the south-west coast. The project, called the Delta Plan, took more than 50 years to complete and is amazing to see. Check out their website too and visit their visitor centre Neeltje Jans when you drive across the storm barrier.