A new dimension in flood management

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The Dutch Delta project is a successful example of the flood protection structures ever made in the history of any country which involves constructing 13 dams, including barriers, sluices, locks, dikes and levees, to reduce the Dutch coastline’s size.

The floods of 1953 were one of the worst disasters ever to strike the Netherlands, and were the result of an unusually powerful storm and an inability to conceive and prepare for it. As we see the Topography of the Netherlands, it has fertile deltas due to three big rivers, the Rhine, the Meuse and the Scheldt. Half of the country’s land is below the mean sea level. That is why it’s highly prone to floods. One such disaster of 1953 has already created havoc in the region in which more than 1,836 people died and 135,000 hectares of land were flooded. The blunder brought enormous loss of life, livestock and destruction of land.

After this devastation, government of Netherlands focused on three major steps. First was to rescue as many people as possible. The second was to repair breaches in the dikes and the third which was of paramount importance was to make sure that such a disaster would not happen again. And this third step gave rise to the Delta Project which led to the construction of extensive storm search barrier. Soon after the disaster on 18th of Feb, 1953, Delta Committee was established to prevent such disaster in future. For a long term solution, the committee started a major renovation programme which included closing of the estuaries in the south west part of the country instead of raising the crest of many dikes around the islands. The committee focused on issues such as salt intrusion, enhancement of land transportation and inland navigation, recreation and social and environmental issues. The first advantage of Delta Project was that it shortened the total length of the dikes by 700 kms. It helped to improve the agricultural fresh water supply. Secondly, the major and auxiliary dams constructed helped to improve the water balance of the delta. Different types of sluices made it possible to allow fresh water in, or polluted or excess water out.  Thirdly, the trade and communication improved between islands and peninsulas. Mobility of the province of Zeeland was highly boosted due to construction of Zeeland Bridge. Fourthly, the delta works supported the inland waterways shipping. The delta works have also done wonders in developing areas of nature and recreation.

The Delta project, also known as a giant flood control project, built four barrier and six secondary dams close to the mouth of several broad long and interconnected inlets which were exposed to the destructive power of North Sea.

The Delta project has immensely contributed to the evolution of the hydraulic engineering profession. The achievements include extensive study of wave impact forces, extensive use of pre-stressed concrete in the marine environment, placement of foundation mattresses consisting of three layers of granular material, closure of tidal channel by dumping material from cable cars, high capacity dredging of sand, lifting and accurate positioning of extremely heavy elements in water depth of 35 meters and velocity up to four m/sec, closing tidal channels with sand only and development of probabilistic design method.

The project was completed in 1997, at a cost of $5 billion. The Delta project is recognized as one of the seven wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers. This project is the first of its kind which was designed to address the vulnerabilities of the nation. This project has raised the country’s standard as no other country has shown such advancement in this field of technology.