Safeguarding the quality of the living environment

A safe, healthy environment requires good environmental quality, flood protection and a reliable drinking water supply, as well as protection of our cultural heritage and unique natural values. Sites used for national defence are also necessary.

Improving the quality of air, soil, water

Good environmental quality means that the quality of soil, water and air must, at a minimum, comply with national and international standards. The government is striving to improve the quality of the living environment by tackling pollution at the source.

People’s health must be protected from negative influences like noise pollution. In principle, the same level of protection should apply to all parts of the country. However, area-specific solutions may sometimes be more appropriate.

The central government and water authorities are responsible for protecting and improving water quality. They do so by means of physical measures, a system of environmental licensing and enforcement.

Spatial planning in the Caribbean

The central government is the competent authority in the Caribbean Exclusive Economic Zone. It is therefore responsible for the integrated policy of the zone and for its management. The Caribbean is of major international economic importance to shipping, fisheries, the extraction of mineral resources and generation of wind power. It is also important for naval exercises, as well as being an important wildlife habitat and is a defining feature of the region.

Flood protection and drinking water supply

Water system management is based on the principle of ‘going with the natural flow’ wherever possible, and putting up defences where necessary. The primary pillar of flood protection policy is prevention. But it is equally important to restrict the impact floods. This can be achieved through careful spatial planning decisions and keeping disaster management plans up to date. Spatial plans, such as plans for urban development, should comply with short and long-term water management requirements.

The national water system is part of four international river basins (Rhine, Meuse, Ems and Scheldt). This is why the international coordination of water management measures is very important in safeguarding both the quantity and quality of our water supply. This will prevent pollution or peak loads in a river catchment from causing problems downstream.

Within the national Delta Plan, the authorities are working together to produce a comprehensive package of measures to guarantee flood protection and secure drinking water supplies in the short and long term. The Delta Plan is led by the Delta Commissioner.

Protecting cultural heritage and natural values

Landscape, culture and cultural heritage are playing an increasingly important role in keeping the Netherlands attractive and competitive. The central government is responsible for:

  • The framework for a network of nature areas
  • UNESCO World Heritage sites in the Netherlands (including the Tentative List);
  • Urban and village conservation areas;
  • Scheduled national monuments and historic buildings;
  • Heritage values in or on the seafloor.

Provincial authorities coordinate landscape and urban development. This leaves more scope for tailored regional solutions.

The provincial authorities also define, protect and maintain a network of nature areas. They must provide appropriate spatial, hydrological and environmental conditions for characteristic ecosystems of national and international importance.

Military sites and activities

Sites for military activities are a national responsibility. Activities at these locations sometimes impose restrictions on other spatial functions. They must therefore be sited with due care.

A new method of assessing radar disturbance will allow more scope for wind turbines and high-rise buildings in the future.

Careful balancing and transparent decision-making in all spatial and infrastructural decisions

The central government is responsible for a good system of spatial planning, including careful, transparent spatial and infrastructural decision-making. Plans for new development, infrastructure and restructuring should always address the impact on water management, the environment and cultural heritage.