The Dutch delta approach

As a vulnerable river delta, Holland has learned to deal with water challenges in a specific way: by embracing water and embedding it in our DNA. Water became our way of life, our culture, and we used this knowledge in our governance, policies and investments with The ‘Dutch Delta approach’ as a solid outcome. This Dutch approach is helping other countries to deal with their water challenges.

Global water challenges

A couple of years ago the American State of California experienced its third driest year on record. At the same time, the European countries of Bosnia and Serbia suffered from the worst rainfall and flooding in decades. Unfortunately we all know for certain the world will face many more droughts, floods and storms. To take on these challenges we’ll have to prepare. The ‘Dutch Delta Approach’ provides a sustainable solution to global water challenges.

A strategic process

The view of the Delta Approach is that everywhere in the world, water is complex; managing it properly requires good governance, partnerships and preparation. A strategic planning process is what the Delta approach comes down to, with institutional, sustainable, physical and social economical aspects combined. This integrated water management planning approach proved itself to be very successful in the Dutch Delta Programme (the national plan to make sure Holland is safe and resilient for generations to come).

12 building blocks

The essentials of the Delta approach are made up of 12 building blocks. These blocks are the ‘must haves’ for sustainable delta management and can be used in several delta environments around the globe.

A short overview of 10 inspiring deltas

The Dutch Water Sector highlighted ten countries where the delta approach has been applied, they all have their own characteristics and find themselves in different stages of the process. Varying in size, investment and impact. The ten countries mentioned below are all examples of long term (water) partnerships between Holland and other delta’s worldwide.

Room for the river, Zwolle Groot salland

Room for the river, Zwolle Groot salland

Making room for the river in Holland

In 1993 and 1995 water levels in Holland reached a critical level, weakening the dykes to a point of collapse. 250.000 people along with one million cattle had to be evacuated. Since heavy rainfall is becoming more common and will continue to increase in the future, Holland is continuously working on ensuring the safety of the river regions through programmes such as ‘Room for the River’ .

Gangesdelta Bangladesh

Integrated delta planning in Bangladesh

The area of Bangladesh surrounding the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna river systems, can be considered one of the most dynamic delta’s in the world. Bangladesh’ rivers often fail to carry the huge amounts of water and sediments. Additional challenges are posed by cyclones and coastal floods, climate change effects and a range of socio-economic trends. In short, there was enough reason to develop a long term, holistic delta vision and adaptive strategy formed into the Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100.

Jakarta masterplan

Jakarta masterplan

Turning threats into benefits in Indonesia

Indonesia is booming and the metropolitan area of its capital Jakarta is urbanizing rapidly. While immigrants from other parts of the country are sprawling the city, shopping centres, office buildings, and housing for middle and higher incomes are being developed in a well-organised way. Jakarta’s urbanisation also has a downside: it’s putting the infrastructure under an enormous amount of pressure and the urbanisation is also causing environmental problems such as pollution. In the meantime, Jakarta is sinking into the sea due to subsidence and a rising sea level. The National Capital Integrated Coastal Development (NCICD) programme is designed to turn the tide and protect Jakarta from floods while revitalizing its coastline.

Nile delta view from space

Nile delta view from space

The Nile Delta in Egypt needs a shoreline master

With up to 1,600 inhabitants per square kilometer, the Nile delta in Egypt is heavily populated. The coastal zone of the Nile delta surrounds more than 40% of Egypt’s industries and hosts vital centres for agriculture, tourism and fish farms. A coastal area of about 500 km2 will be vulnerable to flooding by the year 2075. The sandy barrier, separating the inland lakes from the sea, is very narrow and low lying and presently subject to strong erosion. An Integrated Coastal Zone Management strategy (ICZM) has been developed to recognise, incorporate and address the concerns of all stakeholders.

Rebuild by Design

New York rebuild by design after hurricane Sandy

For the north-eastern region of the United States the implications of climate change became painfully clear when hurricane Sandy exposed the vulnerabilities of the area. Instead of rebuilding, solutions are being sought which are in line with the natural and socio- economic characteristics of the region. It’s not just a plan, it involves a culture change. To become more resilient to climate change, the Sandy Task Force (appointed by President Obama), together with philanthropy, set up the project: Rebuild by Design (RBD).

The city of Pathein next to the Ayerywaddy river in Myanmar

The city of Pathein next to the Ayerywaddy river in Myanmar

Making use of the resilience of the delta in Myanmar

The Ayeyarwady Delta in Myanmar is extremely fertile. At about three metres above sea level, the delta’s sediment plays a dominant role in the large-scale cultivation of rice. Although the delta area has been plagued by floods, salinity and erosion, it can play an important role in the economic development of Myanmar. This southeast Asian country has asked Holland to take the lead in developing an adaptive, integrated water management plan for the delta as well as the rest of the country to cope with the expected economic growth and increasing pressure on water resources as a result of this.

Masterplan Beira 2035, Mozambique

A master plan for Beira, Mozambique

Beira is a low-lying city in a densely populated delta with a seaport serving massive hinterland. Many people keep spreading to Mozambique’s seaport and settling in low-lying areas that are not fit for habitation. Waterborne diseases, especially malaria, are out of hand and the city’s infant mortality rate is dramatically high. In addition to water safety, the integrated approach of the Beira Master Plan 2035 aims to stimulate both land development and economic growth. The master plan has been drawn up with help from Dutch consortium.

Flood risk management in Poland

Flood risk management in Poland

Water knowledge has economic potential in Poland

Although it does not have the reputation, Poland is a country of water. The majority of Polish cities are located by the sea or a river and are directly influenced by water. Sometimes the influence of the water is too great. As is the case with the Vistula and Oder rivers for example, which run from the mountains in the south to the Baltic Sea and the low-lying flat deltas in the north. The one-dimensional river system set up in the past is highly susceptible to flooding. Valuable lessons are learned from the Dutch Delta Programme in terms of its holistic, integrated approach to spatial planning and water management.

Mekong delta protection

A long term vision and strategy for Vietnam

In the past decades, the Mekong Delta with its rich land and water resources, successfully turned Vietnam into one of the leading rice exporters globally. On the other hand, the economic development of the delta lags behind other regions in Vietnam. The present state of the Mekong Delta is very vulnerable because of the floods, droughts and salinity problems. Inspired by the experiences in Holland, the Government of Vietnam expressed the strong intention to work towards a Mekong Delta Plan for a safe, prosperous, economically and environmentally sustainable development of the delta.

Masterplan Cauca river Colombia

Masterplan Cauca river Colombia

Balancing interests around the Cauca River in Colombia

It could cause major socio-economic damage to the Cauca Valley if the Cauca River would overflow its banks. Flooding will also affect the Colombian economy, since this valley is an important agricultural region that represents the heart of Colombia’s sugarcane industry. The Cauca valley already suffered from floods for many years.It’s a challenge to limit the risk of flooding while paying sufficient attention to river ecology recovery. Finding a balance between the interests of a large number of stakeholders is a requirement. Dutch experience has shown that all stakeholders will have to participate in a coordinated flood risk management plan.

10 interesting delta facts

Did you know…

1. The Dutch are working together to give rivers more room?

2. The horizon for the Bangladesh Delta Plan is 100 years?

3. Jakarta is sinking below sea level at a rate of 7.5 cm a year?

4. 40 km2 of Egypt’s agricultural land could be lost by 2060?

5. The Delta approach is not just a plan in New York? It’s a culture change.

6. Rice is grown at three metres above sea level in Myanmar?

7. Beira (Mozambique) will be safe from water and have grown both economically and in size?

8. The delta approach creates a golden opportunity for tourism, nature and urban development in Poland?

9. There are 12 long-term measures for a safe prosperous and sustainable delta?

10.The Cauca river in Colombia is 1,350 kilometres long?