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Second Chamber asks commission to study plans for new islands

Dutch engineers targeting North Sea coast

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

AMSTERDAM Dutch dredgers which have been using their polder-building experience of the fifties and the sixties of the twentieth century in other parts of the world to build very innovative projects, could also get the opportunity to create a new island off the Dutch North Sea coast. The Second Chamber recently approved a call to develop a new land reclamation in the shape of a tulip to offset overcrowding in the Randstad and shield the coastline from the effects of the anticipated rise of the North Sea.

Supporters of the scheme say the plans will also give Dutch companies a chance to showcase water management skills that are increasingly in demand due to global warming. Nay sayers are already lining up with criticism and are complaining that the plan will be prohibitively expensive and harmful to delicate ecosystems.

The Second Chamber has asked a commission on coastal development to look into the idea of building islands in the North Sea that could be used for housing, farming or a nature reserve, while at the same time helping to protect the coast which could be weakened if the sea level starts rising.


The sponsor of the motion, Christian Democrat Joop Atsma, also has agriculture on his mind. People in the Netherlands have been too crowded in a small space, he commented, "we are hungry for land and need a huge area for building."

Atsma says high land prices threaten the country's position as one of the world's leading exporters of agricultural products. The 100,000 hectare, or 247,000 acre, island potentially could gross a real estate value of $14.69 billion, enough to cover the cost of the project, according to Atsma who is his party's spokesman for agricultural issues.

A government appointed body created to promote innovation has drawn up proposals for an island about 50 kilometers, or 31 miles, long, and caused one critic to joke that a cannabis leaf may be a more suitable shape than the tulip on the formal plans.

The Netherlands, literally the Low Lands, has a centuries-long history of hydraulic engineering. Dutch pioneers built dikes throughout Europe along river estuaries and coastlines to avoid recurring flooding. Until the 1960s their reclamation projects were largely restricted to the Netherlands itself.

Since then, Dutch engineers and dredgers have been involved in coastal developments worldwide, including helping to reclaim land for Hong Kong's airport and now working on Oman's "Wave" project, a huge resort added to that country's coast. Following the flood that devastated New Orleans in 2005, U.S. officials sought advice from Dutch experts as well.

This year, the Dutch celebrated the 75th anniversary of the completion on the mammoth 32-kilometer dike that cut the Zuiderzee from the North Sea's daily tidal movements. It gave added protection to river estuaries along the inland sea and allowed the Dutch to reclaim 1,650 square kilometers, or 640 square miles, of land which at one time many centuries ago was part of the country's floodplain.