The Netherlands will have to spend €26bn over 15 years on widening and deepening the country’s rivers to cope with consequences of global warming, Wageningen University environmental economist Ekko van Ierland said on Friday.
Experts now believe the main danger facing the Netherlands from global warming is not rising sea water but the threat of inland flooding. Although the sea level is expected to rise 1.5 metres, the country’s dykes and coastal defences are considered by most experts to be strong enough to cope.
But the higher level of the sea means the river Rhine, which flows from Switzerland to Rotterdam, will not be able to release enough water into the sea, said environmental planning agency MNP on Friday.
Nor will the Rhine be able to cope with surges in water levels caused by melting glaciers and storms. This means Rotterdam and other low-lying areas are particularly vulnerable to flooding, the agency says.
To remove the threat, the Netherlands should divert the Rhine towards the Zealand delta or to the IJsselmeer – the lake that was once an inlet of the North Sea, the MNP suggests. ‘There is no reason to panic, but we have to think about the future after 2100,’ a NMP spokeswoman said. Some two-thirds of the Dutch population lives below sea level.
The MNP report coincides with the publication of the second United Nations report on climate change. The final text of the UN document was agreed in in Brussels on Friday.