Deltas 2014: More Nature-Based Flood Defenses

The Dutch flood defense policy is no longer solemnly about building more storm surge barriers and higher embankments, stated Bart Parmet, staff member Dutch Delta program Commissioner at the opening plenary of the second conference Deltas in time of climate change in Rotterdam on 24 September.

There are little concrete constructions in our new Delta program and we are shifting to more nature-based flood defenses, he added.

Only one week ago the Dutch government officially announced the second national Delta program that will now be debated in parliament the coming months. The national program to make the Dutch water system more resilient to climate changes, envisions the investment of 20 billion euros for the next 20 years.

Three structural elements

All river deltas are different so our new Dutch program is no blue print for other delta regions,” Parmet added. “However, our new program contains three elements that may be considered general for dealing with the complex issues in low-lying densely populated river deltas. We have identified the importance of multi-governance, joint fact finding and adaptive strategic delta management. This is what we now call the Dutch delta approach.”

Parmet elaborated on the difficulty of adaptive delta management. “It is about making continuous decision making on large investments with impact for large regions for many decades. This requires a long term perspective associated with many uncertainties. This requires an adaptive approach,” Parmet added.

Cheaper nature-based solution

That the situation in the Dutch river delta differs from other deltas was made clear by Cynthia Villar, senator of the Philippines. She pointed out that her country do not have the money for a comprehensive expensive climate adaption plan.

Senator Villar believes that cheaper nature-based measures are more appropriate in the Philippines. As an example she mentioned the restoration of mangrove forests along the long coastlines as flood protection.

Delta thinkers

In her opening speech Dutch minister of infrastructure and environment Melanie Schultz van Haegen called upon ‘delta thinkers’ to be more upfront in climate adaptation. “We need innovative city planners, architects who know about climate-proof construction, and researchers who can calculate how many green roofs and water plazas we need in big cities. What we need is a worldwide coalition of delta thinkers.”

Minister Schultz pointed out that too often solution are less optimal because decisions are made on short notice following a disaster. “The worst response is to invest only in repairs. But all too often this is what happens. It’s understandable. There’s only ever a year to go until the next storm season hits. But to avoid this short-term reflex, we need to take action before disaster strikes.”

Source: dutchwatersector, September 26, 2014

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