|Ooijpolder ‘climate buffer’ project, The Netherlands
With its largest rivers tamed by dikes and dams, and the Zuiderzee dammed to form the IJsselmeer, The Netherlands thought it had won the battle against water. Water is imprisoned in asphalt, steel, basalt and concrete, but the cost of maintenance is rising by the day. At the same time, the Netherlands is sinking, due, among other things, to intensive draining, and to the disruption of natural processes such as silting and peat formation.
As sea level rises here because of climate change10, the rivers and storage basins on which land drainage depends are less able to carry water to the sea. This is happening already, and more frequently when north-westerly gales and heavy rain combine. Extreme precipitation is causing more flooding in river and stream basins, damaging property and agriculture, and overflowing sewer systems.
Conversely, low river levels in summer, contributed to by retreating glaciers in the Alps, will lead to water shortage and deteriorating water quality, and will affect commercial shipping, farming, recreation, and natural ecosystems.
To counter these national threats, natural ‘climate buffers’ have been developed as part of a landscape management approach to climate change. Buffers can be created by relocating river dikes, developing and restoring overflow areas and reed marshes in the alluvial plain, broadening tributary river mouths to slow outflow into the river, extracting clay and sand along contour lines (a source of sustainable building materials), and digging bypasses or even completely new rivers.
Vogelbescherming Nederland (BirdLife Netherlands) has conducted such a project as a partner in the Ooijpolder ‘climate buffer’ project. The project has also restored conditions for wetland biodiversity.
VBN, Vogelbescherming Nederland (BirdLife partner in The Netherlands)
Robert Kwak, Robert.Kwak(at)vogelbescherming.nl