How the Dutch are Fighting Against the Ocean – Delta Works

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500 years ago the Dutch found themselves in quite a pickle. Large parts of land were being flooded by the sea on a yearly basis, causing destruction to both life and property. In this dire situation the Dutch came up with an ingenuous idea- Delta Works, that not only safeguarded their territory from flooding but also allowed them to take back land from the ocean. This is the story of how the Dutch fought against the ocean and won.

Netherlands – A country Sinking

Naturally, large parts of Netherlands are either below sea level or only slightly above it. By the end of 1300s

Map of Netherlands showing the height of land in meters. The blue portions are land under the sea level.

This made Netherlands constantly being flooded by the ocean. Year after year, the ocean and wind ate away the land. Engineers were given the task to come up with a solution to the mindboggling problem. But how does one fight against the force of nature that is the ocean?

The Solution – Delta Works

The Dutch engineers came up with an ingenious idea. First they created a giant wall of rock and silt around a large part of land that had been engulfed by the ocean.

Cordoning of the sea with a wall of Rock and Silt

Next, they installed large amounts of windmills in that land. The windmills had a pump connected to them that carried drained the water from the flooded land back to the ocean. The dried up land was then solidified by dumping silt and rocks. Eventually the land was habitable enough that huge cities were created on them.

Traditional Dutch Windmill

The seemingly simple idea took a lot of years to perfect. But the results are mindboggling. Take a look at the map of Netherlands between 1300s and 2000s. Huge swaths of land have been reclaimed by the Dutch.

Map of Netherlands between the 1300s and the 2000s

The modern approach to the same idea has been named Delta Works.. The project consists of a series of dams in the Northwest Netherlands. The aim is to protect the land from future floods. Delta Works have been declared one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

In 1986, the Dutch people got a new province in their country. This was not the result of some administrative reform but the result of this Hydrological Engineering that the Dutch perfected.

Canals of Netherlands

Netherlands has a vast system of canals that runs throughout their cities. A big part of this is due to Dutch expertise in the field of hydrological engineering. These not only feed their agricultural needs but gives another way of transport for the citizens.

Canals of Amsterdam

The Future

As global warming cause the sea levels to rise, Netherlands will have to fight an uphill battle. Delta works’ main idea is to counter the rising sea levels. Countries all over the world with similar problems can learn a lot from the Dutch and adopt a similar approach. The Dutch have shown that with zeal and ingenuity, even a force as mighty as the ocean can be defeated.

To read about the possibility of stopping global warming, click here.


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talha farhat
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