The Netherlands is the best protected delta in the world. But how can we ensure that we remain protected from high water – now and in the future – and that our supply of freshwater is secure?
- The aim of the Delta Programme
- Delta Decisions
- Approach of the Delta Programme
- Working on the delta
- Administrative, legal and financial bearings of the Delta Programme
And, in addition, how can we ensure that the Netherlands remains an attractive country in which to live, work and invest? The measures that are necessary to this end are prepared and elaborated in the Delta Programme. The Delta Programme is a national programme in which the Dutch government, provinces, municipalities and water authorities work together in collaboration with civil society organisations, the business community and knowledge institutions under the direction of the government commissioner for the Delta Programme (the Delta Commissioner).
Every year on Prinsjesdag (the state opening of parliament) the Delta Programme for the year ahead is presented to the House of Representatives.
Reasons for the Delta Programme
Being safe and staying safe
That we are able to live in our delta is never simply a matter of course. It demands constant efforts to ensure that we are safe, and stay so. The work is never finished. Measurements show that the sea level is rising and subsidence is occurring. We are expecting more extreme weather with more wet periods. Rainwater must be discharged via the rivers. The prevailing safety standards date from the 1960s and were set after the disastrous flood in the south-western Netherlands in 1953.
Today, we have more to protect than we did 50 years ago. Away from the coast and behind our river dikes lies a densely-populated area with people, animals and goods that are vulnerable if flooding occurs. Almost 60% of our country is vulnerable to flooding, including our economic heart. Flooding results in unimaginable suffering and damage. Protection from floods – caused by the sea as well as by our large rivers – is therefore of vital importance.
The North Sea flood of 1953 (Watersnoodramp) was commemorated in Ouwerkerk in the Dutch province of Zeeland. Minister Schultz van Haegen and Delta Commissioner Wim Kuijken laid a wreath. The Watersnoodmuseum opened Caisson 4, a permanent exhibition focusing on the Dutch battle against the water.
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RADIO NEWSREADER: The flooding from last night and this morning is a national disaster.
VOICE-OVER: The worst disaster in the Netherlands' history occurred exactly sixty years ago. 1,836 people died and more than 100,000 lost their homes. A commemoration was held in Ouwerkerk for the victims of the 1953 Flood Disaster. Minister Schultz van Haegen and Delta Commissioner Wim Kuijken laid a wreath on behalf of the Dutch government.
Ouwerkerk, where the National Flood Monument stands, was also flooded in 1953. And the memory still lingers on.
MINISTER SCHULTZ: It was very cold that night too. And when the water level rose, people didn't know where to go in the dark. The emergency services hadn't responded yet. The impact was huge. It was a very closed, traditional community. Those emotions don't just disappear, not in one generation.
VOICE-OVER: To prevent a new flood disaster, development of a revolutionary flood-control project, the Delta Plan, started immediately. A lot needed to be done to make and keep the Netherlands safe. New technological inventions led, among other things, to the famous Delta Works. But the country must continue to protect itself by maintaining and innovating existing defences. That is the job of the Delta Programme.
DELTA COMMISSIONER KUIJKEN: The Delta Works created after 1953 are now completed. But in the mid-1990s there was almost a second disaster along the river with more than 200,000 people evacuated in Betuwe. So the Room for the River programme was started. The Delta Works weren't the end of the matter. A follow-up programme is now underway. Work on the delta is everlasting. We are safe but vulnerable and new measures will always be needed.
VOICE-OVER: The Flood Museum in Ouwerkerk is dedicated to the 1953 disaster and the Netherlands' battle against the water and provides an interactive glimpse of the future.
In addition, measurements show that the temperature is rising. We expect that our summers will become increasingly warmer and drier, which will put our supply of freshwater under pressure. Not so much our drinking water, but water on which the agriculture sector, industry and nature depend.
The measured rise in the sea level, subsidence and rising temperatures are forcing us to look further ahead and to anticipate developments that will occur in the distant future. Moreover, our current safety measures are not in completely good order. We want to avoid disasters and ensure that we are well prepared for the events of today and those of the future. We are doing this through the Delta Programme.