What would happen if events similar to those in Japan’s disaster happened to Holland? A while ago, I mentioned the risk of nuclear accidents and natural disasters to the Dutch. In this article I expand on this topic, exploring what would happen if our dykes fail and nuclear reactors from the Dutch or adjacent nations melt down. First, a short history lesson:
Tsunamis don’t occur in the Netherlands, but water has been the biggest threat since the 13th century. The Dutch are situated near the Northsea and a river delta. The Rhine River, Meuse River and the River Waal provide access to Europe’s in-land cities. Because of this, Rotterdam is one of the central ports in Europe. It is vitally important to the economy of the Netherlands and the rest of Europe.
The Dutch expanded its limited territory by poldering. Poldering is the practice of building dikes around a submerged/oceanic area and draining it with windmill-powered pumps, until dry, fertile soil remains. This way, there was no need for hostile land grabs in order to expand the nation’s borders. Instead, we took land from the sea. In the case of floods, water is purposely diverted to the relatively uninhabited countryside to minimize the damage to dense urban areas. It’s an old but smart system that helped us become famous for our Dutch ingenuity. This doesn’t always work though. Sometimes the sea comes back to reclaim what is hers. We have had 3 big incidents in our history so far:
- Allerheiligenvloed (All Saints Flood) 1570 worst post-medieval flood in europe. Tens of thousands drowned.
- Kerstvloed 1717 11.500 deaths, 100.000 drowned livestock. 5000 destroyed houses.
- Sint Ignatiusvloed ("De Watersnood" or "De Ramp van ‘53")1953. 1932 deaths, 60.000 drowned livestock. 100.000 destroyed houses. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XcX5wb1k9UM&)
This lead to the construction of the Delta Works, an even smarter system of dams that reduced our coastline by 700 km, and consequently reduced our need for protection from the sea. It is 1 of the 7 wonders of the modern world, completed after 57 years of construction. But the sea isn’t our only threat, our rivers flood every so many years, causing damage to our infrastructure far from the coastline.
Global Warming is a new factor in rising sea water and it is happening rapidly. It is estimated that it could rise more than 6 meters (20 ft) due to climate change. The Delta Works took 57 years to finish so we may not be able to reinforce the country before one of our defense mechanisms fail. The question is, can we geo-engineer ourselves out of this one?
70% of our country is either below or at sea-level. The lowest point lies 7 meters (23 ft) below the sea-level. As you can see, the Randstad will flood (An area that houses 7.1 m inhabitants, or 44% of the entire population) This means Amsterdam, the Hague, Utrecht and Rotterdam will be lost. If our dams and dikes fail, the cultural, economical and industrial relevance of the Dutch could be decimated overnight. All that would remain is a strip along the Belgian and German border. This could happen in the next 15-30 years. Needless to say, I won’t take a mortgage.
Japan wasn´t just hit by a Tsunami, it was hit by a nuclear accident as well. Here is another excerpt from my previous article:
The small size of our country and close proximity to England, Belgium, Luxemburg, Germany and Denmark means that even if a nuclear disaster occurs in another country, we will probably suffer from its fallout. We are left at the mercy of nature and the regulation of other countries as well as our own, so the events in Japan should worry us.
If an unexpected chain of events would set off a nuclear disaster in Holland, it could endanger the lives of at least 1.4 million people who live in risk areas. That is 8,75% of the entire population. Here is a list of domestic and foreign Nuclear Reactors that would impact Holland in case of a melt down.
Even if we have the most secure Nuclear Reactors in the world, we would still be in danger of suffering the fallout from Belgian and German reactors. This means, we will never be safe until we can exert influence over Belgian and German energy policies.
If it Happened to Holland, more than half the population could potentially be directly effected either by nuclear fallout or floods. This would be the end of our country, since all of the major industrial, cultural and urban areas would be wiped out overnight. It reminds me of the story of Mount Vesuvius. The river delta drives our economy, but it is a powerful force that could decimate us overnight. Let’s hope the war against water is one war we will never lose.