Kinderdijk, Holland. Photo: Flickr
26 Jul 2021

The Netherlands may have escaped the floods partly through better preparedness


The Netherlands has lived with dykes protecting the country from rising sea levels for centuries. While struck very hard by Storm Bernd, the Netherlands managed to escape the floods without any deaths, perhaps thanks to being more aware and better prepared. 

Nearly 200 people lost their lives in connection with the recent floods in Belgium and Germany. The devastation is also great in parts of the Netherlands, but despite this, there are no reports of fatalities

"It is generally known that our level of protection is higher than that of our neighboring countries", says hydrology professor Jeroen Aerts,  Head of the Department of Water and Climate Risks at Vrije University in Amsterdam, to Swedish SVT. 

Following the floods, several researchers have sharply criticized Germany's disaster management.

"This many people should not die in floods in 2021. We have the technology to issue early warnings. Measures must be taken so that it does not happen again", stated hydrology professor Hannah Cloke last week.

Jeroen Aerts shares the view that neighboring countries could have handled the disaster better, especially when it comes to long-term planning of buildings.

"Many of these villages are located in places where simply no one should build at all", he says.

However,  there may also be other reasons why the Netherlands succeeded so well with its disaster management. The geographical location, being more "downriver" from the worst rain,  the political system and also the Netherland´s history of living under constant threat of flooding, may all have played a role.

According to Jeroen Aerts, the political system in the Netherlands is unique in that momey is always earmarked towards protecting and maintaining the Dutch dikes. 

"In other countries, the sense of urgency peakes right after something happens, and money is set aside for some time. Then, after about three years, people forget and start building again in areas that aren´t safe. The Dutch level of awareness regarding the risks of flooding is continually very high".  

Photo Credit: The Kinderwijk dike in Holland is a part of the system of earth walls built to contain and protect the country from sea water. Photo: Flickr