Thursday, May 24, 2007

Dutch Dikes and Climate Change - it is going to get expensive

It is high season for exam marking in the UK but there is always time for a story about the economics of maintaining Dutch Dikes.

This issue arose with New Orleans - at some point it will simply become uneconomic to maintain sea defences if sea levels continue to rise.

The obvious question for the "Dutch" therefore is that if the costs of maintaining their dikes continues to spiral will expenditure be subject to a "cap".

Dutch to Invest US$1 Bln to Shore Up Sea Defences
AMSTERDAM - After holding back the sea for 75 years, the 30 kilometre-long dike protecting much of the Netherlands from floods is due for a US$1 billion upgrade against mounting risks from rising sea levels and tsunamis.

"We plan to invest up to 750 million euros (US$1 billion) to strengthen the Afsluitdijk," said Hans Vos, senior adviser to the Dutch Transport and Public Works Ministry.

On Thursday, the Netherlands marks the 75th anniversary of the completion of the Afsluitdijk, the country's longest dike, which keeps the North Sea at bay. It protects the country's biggest freshwater lake and source of drinking water.

Water is a real threat to the Netherlands, two-thirds of which lies below sea level. Fears that huge waves could flood the country increased after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that left some 230,000 people dead or missing, Vos said.

Rising sea levels due to global warming have also added to concerns. Memories of the 1953 flood when a massive North Sea storm breached the country's dikes and resulted in about 1,800 deaths still linger.

Vos said proposals to strengthen the Afsluitdijk by 2020, which stands about 7.5 metres above sea level, include raising its height, widening the barrier which now extends to 125 metres in some places, and building more sluice gates to improve water flow control.

"There is also a suggestion to plant artificial grass on the dike," he said.

In the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, US officials turned to the Dutch for their expertise on flood control and water management systems.

Finally, can you be said to "plant" articifical grass?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

more to the point, if a 125m dyke can't stop the ocean, i doubt the addition of a bit of astro-turf will make difference!