Floods in the Netherlands have been among the highest-ranking natural disasters in the world as flooding becomes the main threat in the Dutch. The Netherlands is located in Western Europe, bordering Germany, Belgium, and a 451-kilo meter coastline bordering the North Sea. The Dutch are about 41,543 square kilometers, with 33,893 square kilometers covered by land and 7,650 square kilometers covered by water. The world rankings rate Netherlands at position 135. There is a 200 nm maritime fishing zone for the Netherlands, 24nm contiguous zone, and 12 nm territorial sea (In Cashin & In Martilli, 2015). The Netherlands experiences several climate changes ranging from cool, temperate, marine, and mild winters. Some parts of the Netherlands were reclaimed from the North Sea while the rest comprises of coastal lowland and some hilly southeast area. (Agency, 2009).
The lowest point is Zuidplaspolder, which is around seven meters below sea level and an elevation of 30 meters to the highest point, which is Vaalserberg at 322 meters above sea level. Due to the low-lying nature of the Netherlands, flooding is the leading natural calamity followed by volcanism. After World War II, the Netherlands government focused on renovating their land, which sows construction of barriers at the coastline to stop the incoming storms from the sea. However, in 1953, a tornado struck the coastal Netherlands and caused the death of 2,551 citizens.
Netherlands’ topography and geographical elevation indicate the importance of flood policy in the Dutch policymaking. The country is a host for four large rivers-estuaries, and a considerable percentage of the country’s geographic is low lying. The History of Dutch institutions has been in the fight against floods. Water boards in the country, around the thirteenth century, were granted the opportunity to lead the safety of floods in the state in specific fields. As they were in the establishment, they began a strategy to enclose rivers and form some polders. Flood defenses were set to extend the approach to protect the country. Dikes were used mainly to preserve river floods, and dunes were used to protect the country from seawater floods (In Cashin & In Martilli, 2015). There have not been significant floods for the past centuries. The entire time, the Dutch emergency management team has been creating policies to manage any possible flood in the future. In 1916, a flood was experienced, which was more of a test to the set policies. The flood created a significant impulse to the systems and led to the development of Afsluitdijk to protect the north-western Netherlands as it was used to close the south sea. The Afsluitdijk marked another prestigious guard to the flood threat as it was incorporated into the policies. There was a clear indication that the protection of floods was still an essential feature in the political execution of decisions. After closing the Zuiderzee, the South Sea enhanced the establishment of a freshwater lake, and a new province was created. Freshwater supplies to the newly established region were enhanced by the lake (Ijsselmeer). Despite these measures, a study conducted in the Dutch flood policies revealed that the strategies were not fit enough to protect the country from floods, especially in the south-eastern part of the country (Watt et al., 2014).
There had been several other floods that had minimal impact on the Dutch land with the most precious one, which occurred in 1926 around the Northwest Netherlands and others that had occurred earlier. The historic one had occurred in 1287, which saw 50,000 to 80,000 deaths. Usually, seawater does not favor vegetation. The succession of floods in the Netherlands has damaged property as well as vegetation. Due to poor working conditions in a flood environment, it has always impacted business negatively. The general economy of the country is also on the list since the floods cover vast land, which affects the entire country. Moreover, the Dutch government is spending too much on mitigating flood emergencies. The North Sea flood of 1953, which was due to sea storms, was one of the dangerous calamities in the 20th century. A considerable area was flooded as a result of high tide and a storm (Watt et al., 2010).
Reconstruction and Recovery
The Dutch are highly industrialized, which positions it centrally in Western Europe’s economic life. The disastrous floods have led to low production in the agricultural sector to the national income. The struggling agriculture still manages to be among the highly ranked Dutch export contributor. However, the country also manages to earn from mining even with the series of infrequent disastrous floods. The state works tirelessly despite the calamities and has achieved several development strategies as well as growth in the economy (Watt et al., 2010). One would think that a country with geographical complications like the Netherlands would always be struggling economically. Though the floods are a significant drawback to the economy, the country still shines bright economically. The flood-prone areas are still productive, and mitigation efforts are in place to control the situation to maintain peace and stability in the area.
The response by the emergency team was in the form of delta works plan, which required the closure of several river mouths as well as arms of the North Sea. The idea came in with more plans to strengthen the dikes which existed and add some new dikes to enhance the defense. Construction of storm barriers was among the first projects to avoid future such disasters (In Cashin & In Martilli, 2015). The Hollandse Ijssel barrier was constructed in response to the 1953 disaster. Huge steel screens were constructed and lowered into the seawater to monitor the sea level as it changes so that they can plan. Three islands were also constructed, which included Veersegatdam and Zandkreekdam, and the project ended in 1961. The island’s main goal was to improve security and safety in the affected areas. Secondary dams to back up the islands in curbing the storms. Other dams like Grevelingendam and the Volkrak were constructed to enhance the ease of constructing the most complex projects: The Haringvlietdam and the Brouwersdam, which were completed in the year 1971 (Gillespie et al., 2010).
The North Sea flood disaster was recorded on 31st January 1953. The Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute alerted the Dutch people of strong north-western winds as well as unusual high water through an emergency telegram. As usual, early-warning routines have consequences, and therefore, the southwestern parts population hardy received the information. A large part of the Netherlands population was asleep when the peak tide occurred in the morning. The high-water levels were a result of a combination of storm and high tide and thus resulted in breaching several dikes across the south-western provinces of the Netherlands. Evacuation routines and were poor and due to the short notice, and therefore so many casualties were recorded (In Cashin & In Martilli, 2015). The casualties were not as much as expected due to the availability of some strong dikes on the northern side as it managed to protect some part of the Randstad region. Also, a ship jammed in a dike and plugged some holes and thus prevented water from flowing through. If that unorthodox action did not happen, there would have been more than a tenfold increase in casualties count as well as considerable economic damage. Four thousand five hundred houses plus 2,551 death casualties were recorded in the scene. The floodwater remained in the land, about 140,000 hectares for several days. About 100,000 people were evacuated from the scene (Middlemis-Brown, 2016).
The Netherlands’ risk management against floods is one of their long-term battles, commonly known as the “heroic battle against the water.” The country is at a high risk of both seawater and river water, which keeps it on toes to curb every possible hazard. The high risk has been as a result of land reclamation from the sea, which has been a tremendous positive to their economy in terms of agriculture. Actions were taken where the work has done some times bore no fruits (Watt et al., 2010). The risk management went ahead and set plans to make flood mitigation independent. Creation of dikes and barriers were part of Dutch work to mitigate flood disasters as well as the construction of dams, strengthening dikes, and canals to ensure proper drainage in case of a flood. The 1953 flood was a great challenge to the Dutch emergency management team since it demolished all the structures; they had set to curb the storms. Further, plans were set up to upgrade their defense system along the coastline.
On 4th February 1953, the government briefed the citizens that the recovery of the levees would receive the highest priority. The levees were not tall enough to keep out high water levels in the before the North Sea 1953 floods. Both maintenance and damage caused during the second world weakened the total length of levees. A plan for structural improvement of the levees and the shortening of the carried out. At the end of 1953 January, Delta Commission presented the first report document. It was only a few days later, inevitable happened. There have been several cases of disastrous floods in the Netherlands, leaving death memories to the citizens and unimaginable loss as well as destruction to the country at large. Dutch neighbours the North Sea, which is funnel-shaped, and in case of a storm southwards, a build-up can easily be experienced since the water can hardly escape, thus raising the level of seawater. Once the sea level rises above the sea show, water flows into the dry land. In case of this situation, then the Netherlands in a mess because the entire 20 percent of dry land or even more will be occupied with seawater. Here, there exist several households, vegetation, animals, and a lot more property, which will entirely perish if immediate action is not taken. The government of the Netherlands is on its process to mitigate and control the disaster. Construction of dams, strengthening dikes, and canals to ensure proper drainage in case of a flood. The 1953 flood was a great challenge to the Dutch emergency management team since it demolished all the structures; they had set to curb the storms (Ayish, 1991).
The Dutch people, especially those living in lowlands, are always in extreme tension. Whatever happens, the next second, minute, hour, or day is beyond their control. Loss of lives, property, or livestock is still their fear. The worst fact is that they experience sea floods, which may lead to large volumes of flood-water (Kundzewicz et al., 2014). If this is the case, then it becomes a disaster because even in minutes. People will have drowned, and as the water flows into the loose dry land, the erosion will create a negative impact on the environment as well as the salty water effect on the vegetation. Several elements will have been mainly impacted as others will be perishing by the time significant help or solution will be sought. The infrequent disastrous floods in the Netherlands have made the country always to stay alert as well as improving their countermeasures for the disaster.
The fact that they spend so much time preparing policies to curb the disaster, but the 1953 flood still struck them; the government was always alerted to keep renovating their structures as well as creating new ones from time to time. Stronger dikes and dunes, as well as dams, have been created in response to the disaster (Andeweg et al., 2014). The flood mitigation factors have since then been ranked as important as any other national focus. The loss of lives, property, and economic damage has been a lesson to the Dutch government, and they have been setting strategies to mitigate any future cases of floods. River mouths, as well as seas, have been taken care of, which saw the closure of the South Sea. New features, such as a freshwater lake, have been established in the process, which is a positive mark to the Dutch economy. A new Province was also created and is being fed by the freshwater lake.
Natural disasters have been everywhere around the globe. The degree at which the disaster damages a country is the most critical focus to the affected country as well as the entire world. After all, mitigation and necessary emergency encounters must be put in place to reduce the impact of the calamity on the country. Controlling the disaster comes after lessons learned from the catastrophe. The Netherlands, being a hotbed of floods, has been an example to the entire world to work tirelessly to curb the disaster, which to some extent, may be unpredictable. The disasters should be managed well to reduce death rates in society and to prevent future occurrences. Some measures should be taken in all aspects to curb the menace. This should involve evacuating people from most affected areas and advise them on the precautions to be taken in case they are faced with such disasters in the future. Netherland is prone to disasters like floods, and more actions must be taken to make sure that people will not be affected by its occurrence. When it happens, it causes a lot of deaths and also diseases that are related to floods like cholera and malaria. Many countries, apart from the Netherlands, should also take measures to control floods in the future. They should also take precautions on all other diseases that might animate from floods. To finalize, the government should find all possible ways to prevent its people from disasters by forming disaster management bodies.
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