Constructed on sand: Dutch discover unlikely ally in opposition to water

TRINTELHAVEN: The Netherlands is deploying an unlikely ally as local weather change intensifies the low-lying nation’s age-old battle in opposition to floods: greater than 666,000 truckloads of sand to shore up an important dike.

Whereas constructing on sand has historically been a byword for wobbly foundations, the Dutch say they’ve discovered a brand new technique to show the substance right into a 50-year wall in opposition to the water.

The Dutch are additionally planning to export the concept of utilizing sand to stop floods elsewhere on the planet, as world warming and rising waters threaten extra nations.

The mission comes as UN local weather talks this fortnight in Madrid heard that concentrations of planet-warming CO2 within the ambiance have reached ranges not seen in three to 5 million years, resulting in rising sea ranges.

The dike in query, referred to as Houtribdijk, wanted pressing reinforcement after practically half a century serving as one of many Netherlands’ most vital flood defences.

Netherlands sand climate change

“We had a dilemma: there aren’t any rocks within the Netherlands. This implies having to import them at nice value from nations like Norway,” mentioned Stefan Aarninkhof, hydraulics professor at Delft College of Expertise.

“Or we needed to discover one other resolution and use materials that was shut at hand. That materials was sand.”

‘Finger in a dike’

Engineers mentioned the Houtribdijk mission might be in comparison with the well-known story of the Dutch boy who caught his finger in a dike to stop a flood.

The fictional character Hans Brinker, created by American author Mary Mapes Dodge in 1865, supposedly saved a metropolis by plugging a gap within the barrier along with his digit.

“However this time we use sand,” one engineer laughed.

The 25-kilometre (15-mile) dike is designed to cease waves pushing throughout the Ijsselmeer, an enormous inland bay that has been closed off from the North Sea, into the Markermeer, one other inland lake.

Work on the dike began in 1963 as a part of the Netherlands’ flood defence system following a catastrophic storm surge in 1953, when flood waters killed some 1,800 individuals.

However scientists lately famous the 68-metre-wide dyke – which has a street on prime — now not met security requirements and needed to be strengthened.

The prospect of a dam breach is inconceivable in a rustic the place at the least one third of the land lies beneath sea degree.

‘Anyplace on the planet’

An enormous civil engineering mission started in 2017 which makes use of sand pumped from beneath a thick layer of mud on the underside of the Markermeer.

By mid-2020 greater than 10 million cubic metres of sand could have been dumped in opposition to the dyke.

After that nature is anticipated to care for the remainder, with waves and currents dispersing the sand to ultimately settle as a barrier in opposition to storm surges, the Dutch authorities’s water administration company mentioned.

The mud pumped as much as attain the sand might be used to create a brand new nature reserve the dimensions of 330 soccer fields.

The company mentioned in an announcement that “sandy reinforcement” of such a dike “is a worldwide first.”

“After the reinforcement the levee will be capable of stand up to a extreme storm that, on common happens each 10,000 years.”

The business-minded Dutch are in the meantime planning to promote the concept overseas as the consequences of local weather change chunk.

“We’ve learnt some generic guidelines on this mission about the way to work in a lake system constructing with nature,” mentioned Fokko van der Groot, spokesman for EcoShape, the consortium behind the mission.

“The constructing with nature method… could be utilized anyplace on the planet the place safety in opposition to water is a matter.”

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