Minister Schultz: “The High-water programme is a new chapter in the story of water”

Minister Schultz van Haegen (Infrastructure & the Environment) today received the first timetable for work within the new High Water Protection programme. As of 1 January 2014, Rijkswaterstaat (the executive arm of the Ministry of Infrastructure & the Environment) and the water authorities will be getting to work on the dikes and water-barrier structures (locks, weirs, pumping stations) which failed to meet the safety requirements in the last round of national assessments. Between now and 2019, work will begin on 32 projects across the country aimed at strengthening 180 kilometres of dikes.

Milestone

According to Minister Schultz, the new programme is “a double milestone”. “We are starting a new chapter in the story of water. From now on, not only are the state and the water authorities sharing responsibility and splitting the costs, but an approach has also been developed to provide the highest safety level using the available resources. The regions with the highest risk in terms of casualties and economic loss will be tackled first,” explains Minister Schultz. 

Cooperation

At a working conference in Utrecht, together with Jan Hendrik Dronkers, Director-General of Rijkswaterstaat, Water Authority Chair Jan Geluk presented the Minister with a map of the Netherlands showing the activities planned for the years ahead. The proposal still has to be approved by the Council of Ministers. Ms Schultz is pleased with the cooperation between the state and the water authorities.  “That was the starting point in the het Bestuurakkoord Water (water policy agreement) and this timetable is the result. Cooperation across the water chain has now really been set in motion with 60 partnerships. We are reversing the trend in terms of managing costs. I appreciate this greatly.”

Assessment

The third national assessment of primary flood defences – the barriers that protect the Netherlands from flooding from the North Sea, the major rivers and the IJssel and Markermeer – took place in 2011. Many barriers will have to be modified to meet the more stringent requirements that climate change, for example, demands for protection from high water. The dikes and structures are being renovated so that the Netherlands will remain well protected in the decades ahead.  

Challenges

At the working conference in the Jaarbeurs, Minister Schultz urged the audience to work harder on innovation. The projects involved are costly and resources are limited. The Minister also pointed out the threat labour shortages pose to the sector. It is estimated that there will be some 40,000 unfilled job vacancies in 2020. “We must tempt young people into jobs in the water sector. It is a wonderful field; multifaceted with many career opportunities, in foreign countries as well.”