Friday, May 25, 2007

Dutch Improve Dikes

The world’s experts, along with the Japanese, in controlling flooding, commit another billion to strengthening their existing dikes.

$1bn plan to protect Dutch dike from seas
Fears of rising seas from warming, as well as tsunamis, drive planning
Updated: 9:49 a.m. PT May 23, 2007

AMSTERDAM - After holding back the sea for 75 years, the 20-mile-long dike protecting much of the Netherlands from floods is due for a $1 billion upgrade against mounting risks from rising sea levels and tsunamis.

"We plan to invest up to 750 million euros ($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 22 feet above sea level, include raising its height, widening the barrier which now extends to 375 feet in some places, and building more sluice gates to improve water flow control.