The famous canals of The Netherlands are not just unique tourist attractions. They are water control systems that help the Dutch in their battle against the ever-encroaching North Sea. Now this tiny country is now faced with a new, more grave challenge: rising seas caused by climate change.
"Climate change leaves us with no way back," said RenÃ©e Jones-Bos, ambassador of The Netherlands to the United States. "We must rethink our cities and inhabitants because climate change is shattering any notion of having water under our control. We must realize that we can't use any land for any purpose."
She spoke recently at the annual conference of the American Planning Association (APA) in New Orleans about "Delta Urbanism," her country's new concept of water control for cities located on deltas.
Delta urbanism addresses the water landscape as well as flood risk mitigation, urban design, green buildings, green roofs and climate proofing and other technologies that cope with sustainability and resiliency issues.
"The key is sophisticated, integrated water management and sound urban planning," said Jones-Bos.
She went on to say that because international cooperation and collaboration produce better ideas and solutions for these difficult problems, the Dutch have initiated dialogues with engineers, urban planners and designers, landscape architects, and soil/hydrology experts in several delta cities of Europe and the United States as well as with Jakarta, Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Taipei, Taiwan and Orangestad, Aruba. Participants also swap ideas about taxing residents and occupying new lands for increasing populations that are expected to create the new global problem of accommodating "climate refugees" who must escape land taken over by rising sea levels.
In fact, the Dutch were among the first to come to the rescue of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina's surge flooded the city and then followed up with a series of meetings called the Dutch Dialogues.
"Thank God for the Dutch," said Senator Mary Landrieu (D-La.) in a keynote address to the 5,000 planners at the APA conference. They provided "extraordinary expertise when our government failed to understand what happened here" after Katrina.
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