Once a year the authorities test these gigantic containment gates in a country where rising sea levels pose a huge threat.
Each of its floodgates is as big as the Eiffel Tower, and keeps one and a half million people safe. The impressive Maeslant barrier in the port of Rotterdam closes its floodgates if the water level is expected to rise three meters or more. Figures that, for the Netherlands, would be devastating.
“In 25 years we have closed the port twice,” says Marc Walraven, the barrier’s main advisor. “We hope to close it more often in the future, of course.”
“Originally, this barrier was designed for a lifespan of 100 years and already in the design we were looking at about 50 centimeters of sea level rise, so it’s already in the design,” Walraven continues. “But of course we can’t look so specifically into the future, so we expect that sometime between 2060 and 2090 we will have to make alterations.”
A quarter of the Netherlands is below sea level. According to the UN, sea levels are rising twice as fast as in the 20th century. The barrier is tested once a year, attracting crowds of curious onlookers who, they say, are not worried.
“We’ve gotten used to the idea that something will always occur to us,” says one viewer. “If we can come up with something like that, then we might as well cope with another half meter, or another meter and a half, right?”
Innovation is also the right answer for Minke van Wingerden, a local businesswoman from the port of Rotterdam. Her floating farm has 40 cows, whose milk is processed indoors. The idea arose after Hurricane Sandy hit New York in 2012, which caused food to quickly run out. Minke is clear that it is better to be safe than sorry.
“The food supply in a city depends largely on logistics,” explains Van Wingerden. “And if something floods, there are no logistics anymore. So we came up with the idea that if you build according to the climate, that is, rising and falling with the tide, on the water, you depend less on logistics.”
In fact, it is an idea that is spreading: Singapore and Dubai have already expressed interest in opening their own floating farms.
As the country faces rising sea levels, barriers like the Maeslantkering give people confidence that this country has what it takes to weather the storm.
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