Life Below Sea Level
The Netherlands is home to arguably one of the great cities in the world, Amsterdam. The city is home to many notable attractions like the coffee shops, the red light district, the iconic canals, and the unique Dutch architecture. If you have never been, I highly recommend you go. That is before the sea takes the city under water. Amsterdam and the Netherlands at large is facing a constant battle with the sea that surrounds it.
The problem of rising sea levels isn’t just limited to Amsterdam. Much of the Netherland coast lyes below sea level. Making the country especially vulnerable to rising sea levels. This includes Dutch cities like Rotterdam, which is the location of Europe’s largest and busiest port. Not to mention a major economic and political hub of the country.
By the end of the century sea levels along the Dutch coast are predicted to rise by around a meter. The Netherlands is already seeing an increase in rainfall and flooding. To make matters worse, the thousands of pumps that remove groundwater up and down the country are leaking due to the land sinking, a residual effect of the constant flooding.
These pressing environments have led to a shift in thinking by the Dutch in recent years. Instead of working against the water, why not re-engineer the city to work with it? Dutch engineers are embracing a new age of climate engineering. As climate change accelerates, Dutch scientist and engineers have been eagerly moving ahead with projects to counteract the rising tides. Making the European country a leader in climate engineering and sustainability.
An example of climate engineering by the Dutch can be found on its coastal city, Katwijk. Katwijk is a small village facing the North Sea whose beachfront has been transformed by an invisible dike. Between the beach and the town is a network of underlying dunes that are covered in vegetation, walking paths, and arching glass and grass doorways that spring from the sand.
The dikes design not only protects Katwijk but also provides a functional purpose. Beneath the dikes lyes a 650-car underground parking garage running along the flood-wall—reducing surface sprawl, and providing easy access for visiting beachgoers.
Now the Dutch have been at this for years. Back in 1997 the Dutch began operation of The Maeslantkering. Maeslantkering is a movable storm surge barrier spanning a canal that connects the river Rhine to the North Sea. The Maeslantkering acts as the final line of defense for Rotterdam against high levels of incoming seawater. It is one of largest moving structures on Earth weighting 6,800 tons.
The barrier is connected to a computer system that monitors weather and sea level data in real time. When a storm surge of 3 meters above normal sea level is anticipated in Rotterdam, the barrier is closed automatically. Protecting the city of Rotterdam and its port that lyes behind the barrier.