Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Crash Course in Water Management

Author: Michael Gerdjikian

It's now been a week after landing in the Netherlands. I can honestly say it's been an exciting yet exhausting week. Every day (except the quiet Sunday), we've gone on another interesting adventure. The first half of the week, we've half-blindly traveled through nearby towns to visit tourist attractions and museums. The past few days, however, have been unlike anything I expected to experience during my stay here. We had the privelege of traveling with some other Floridians from the Florida Earth Foundation during some VIP tours. Starting this past Monday, we had an extremely informative presentation by Professor Bart Schultz about the history and advancement of Holland's knowledge on hydrology. On Tuesday, after a heavy storm, we visited the site of the Maasvlakte 2 project where the Port of Rotterdam plans on expanding their port to possibly reclaim their position as the largest port in Europe. Then, after a presentation on the environmental concerns of an expanding country, we visited the Rotterdam Library and walked along their "green roof." After that, we went to the incredible Maeslantkering structure in Hoek van Holland. It was a very busy day. After another night of not sleeping, it was time to start another adventure. We went to the Oosterschelde site and we were given a presentation on the "Delta Works" project. We then had the opportunity to have a guide take us within the structure and explain how the surge barrier was built. It is a massive structure that can only be appreciated when seen from up close. Even so, it's a lot more massive than it seems. After learning so much about the Dutch history and what it's taken to protect its people in the past, we traveled nearby consturction sites to see what it's going to take to protect the people in the future. In certain places along the coastline, new dykes and dunes are being constructed to ensure that they can handle storms that occur roughly every one in four thousand years. The storm that flooded Holland and caused so much destruction that it fueled the Delta Works project was a storm that occurs roughly once every two-hundred and fifty years. After experiencing past disasters and considering the increase in extreme weather around the world due to global warming, the Dutch are not playing it safe. During these site visits the past few days, I've met some really amazing people that just have so much insight to offer. Before coming here, I could not have imagined standing so close to the largest moving structure in the world (Maeslantkering) that I could climb on top of it. And everything has happened so quickly back to back that I'm still trying to soak it all in. But for now, I must attempt to get some sleep because the week is still not over yet and it will be another early morning.

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