Dutch dealings with the Delta

A.J. Wesselink, Wiebe E. Bijker, Huib J. de Vriend, Maarten S. Krol

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This paper shows how Dutch technological culture has historically dealt with, and developed around, vulnerability with respect to flooding, and indicates recent developments in attitude towards the flood threat. The flooding of New Orleans in the wake of Katrina temporarily made the Dutch public worry about the flood defense infrastructure in the Netherlands, exemplified by the Delta Works. Could this happen in the Netherlands? After the flooding disaster of 1953, a system of large dams was built to offer safety from flooding with - in theory at least - protection levels that are much higher than in New Orleans. In the public’s perception the protection offered is absolute. In practice not all flood defense structures are as secure as they are supposed to be, but their upgrading takes time and money. Katrina has served as a reminder of what is at stake: can the Dutch afford to take another ten years to restore the protection level of their flood defenses? Calls for pride in clever engineering are the latest input into a continuing debate on the best way to continue life below sea level.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)188-209
JournalNature and culture
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2007


  • ADLIB-ART-2626
  • Flood management
  • Resilience
  • Policy making
  • Technological lock-in
  • Political lock-in
  • Public perception


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