Saturday, January 21, 2012

How the Dutch make 'room for the river' by redesigning downtown

E&E Publishing via ClimateWire: For centuries, the Dutch have built higher and higher dikes to keep waters at bay in a country where 55 percent of housing is located in areas prone to flooding. But climate change has convinced them this approach will no longer work, so the country is embarking on a mammoth task of moving dozens of dikes back to make room for swelling rivers.

Now the oldest city in the Netherlands is being hailed for its plans to move the country's biggest river, building more efficient flood defenses and at the same time creating more sustainable urban living space. The city of Nijmegen's "Room for the River" plan has received the "Excellence on the Waterfront Honor Award 2011" from the Washington, D.C.-based Waterfront Center for combining flood safety with construction of a riverside park with the close involvement of the local community.

"We are proud that Nijmegen now features on this list of world cities," said Ingwer de Boer, "Room for the River" program director. "The award demonstrates that Dutch water management expertise remains a powerful factor at international level. We're improving flood safety and giving a new lease of life to these areas."

The €359 million ($460 million) project involves pushing a dike 350 meters inland, digging a new channel for the river Waal and thus creating a new island and an urban river park in the heart of Nijmegen. The river Waal bends sharply near Nijmegen and narrows to form a bottleneck prone to floods. A dike exists, but high water levels in 1993 and 1995 that prompted the evacuation of 250,000 people convinced authorities that climate change required additional measures.

"After 800 years of building dikes, we've been making them higher and higher," said Gert-Jan Meulepas, project manager at Royal Haskoning, an engineering and environmental consultancy that developed the project. "But if something goes wrong, the damage will be greater." After the floods in the 1990s, the government decided to no longer raise the dikes, but move them back. "We need to remain flexible in adapting to climate change, so now we try to remove the bottlenecks," Meulepas said....

A bridge over the River Waal in Nijmegen, shot by de:Benutzer:DoubleH, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

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