Sunday, May 29, 2011

Travel to Zeeland

An exhibit within the Watersnoodmuseum
Our first adventure on the final day of our week-long series of excursions was a tour of the famous Watersnoodmuseum (Flood Water Museum). Focusing on the Flood of 1953, this museum depicts the impact of this flood on lives and mentalities. Prior to this flood, the priority of fortifying dikes and barriers fell second to other national interests. Four days before the Flood, the nation decided to strengthen its defenses, but they were too late. February 1st, most of Zeeland, West Brabant, and The South Holland Islands fell victim to a flood which claimed over 1800 lives. This was the direct predecessor of the Delta Works, a national movement to stop this type of disaster from ever happening again.

In 1986, Queen Beatrix announced the close of the Delta Works program by stating, "The flood barrier is closed (referencing the Oosterscheldekerin). The Delta Works are completed. Zealand is safe." The nine kilometer long Oosterscheldekerin (Oostershelde Barrier) was the largest of the Delta Works Projects, and landed among the top ten engineering marvels in the world. It consists of a series of movable gates that can stop rising water from causing a flood. The environmental impacts of this project are quite serious, yet Dutch lives in the area are now safe from rising floodwaters.

The events this week have collectively shown us the strong Dutch effort to protect themselves from the ever-present threat of flooding. It has been a very exciting adventure, and a distinct change of perspective for me. I would like to personally thank Mr. Stan Bronson, representing the Florida Earth Foundation, Dr. Garth Redfield, Chief Scientist of the South Florida Water Management District, and UNESCO-IHE's Hydroinformatics program  for engaging us in such a fantastic experience. I hope that this program will provide a similar experience for future attendees!


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