Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Polder Model

By Ivy

We have seen and heard so much over the past few days regarding Dutch water management and impressive engineering undertakings, it's going to take quite a bit of time to process and assimilate all the information. In that case, I will only address snippets at a time, hoping that by writing about them, it'll help me to digest them.

The saying that 'God created the world, and the Dutch created Holland' is quite obviously correct after seeing the manipulation that has occurred throughout this country. I'll begin with polders, which themselves have quite a lesson to teach.

A polder basically is made land, or 'reclaimed' land, depending on how you look at it. A ring dike is constructed, which is basically a giant mound of earth creating a circle within what would currently be water. Once the circle is complete, the water is removed using sluices, windmills, pumps, etc. The area must continually be maintained, as it is not really supposed to be dry. This process was the beginning of the Netherlands, and they were quite good at it. The exposed soil was generally quite fertile and has led the country to be one of the leading agricultural nations in the world, despite being limited in size.

Historically, the polders were managed by the farmers who lived inside them. Over time, farmers joined their circles and maintained the resulting dikes cooperatively. As time progressed, these ring dikes have emerged as the waterboards.

The waterboards managing each ring dike were the first democratic institutions in the country, dating back to the 13th century. Having a common goal helped the stakeholders involved work together, instead of leaving every man for himself. They found this method to be both productive and cheaper.

Fast forward a few hundred years. This cooperative approach is now known as the Polder Model. It has been used by a number of lecturers to describe the relationship between different agencies: national, provincial, and local, or between agencies of different motives, such as Spatial Planning and Rijkwaterstaadt. Of course, there is still miscommunication and disagreement, but in general, the Dutch appear to be getting things done: fast, efficiently, economically, and without the political gridlock that can put almost any issue to a standstill. They insist it has been essential in their relations with neighboring countries as well, in managing waste and pollution from those upstream.

The Polder Model. Compromise. Hmm.

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