Dordrecht as a model coastal city for climate adaptation

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Earth Journalism Network, Dordrecht, Netherlands

Today, around twenty major coastal cities around the world, from Miami to Mumbai, are facing serious threats of urban flooding due to sea level rise as a result of climate change.

These coastal cities are now planning to work on how to adapt by 2050, to the expected rise in sea level which they estimate by then would be between 18 and 15 inches.

While these coastal cities have yet to plan how to protect themselves from future urban flooding, the Dutch city of Dordrecht also called Dordt, located in the province of South Holland, has adapted the methods from flood protection long ago.

Unprotected sides of houses along the water opening in Dordrecht / Courtesy of Amar Guriro

Around 1700 delegates participated in the Adaptation Futures 2016 conference, held in the Dutch city of Rotterdam. To showcase adaption related work in the Netherlands, thirteen sites were selected​ to be part of a field trip​ with one of them titled the "Dordrecht flood management walking tour (city tour)". A group of around twenty members including EJN's member journalists visited Dordrecht to witness how, Dordrecht has developed throughout the centuries by making use of the water surrounding the city.

Located along the creek Turedricht, the city of Dordrecht, initially built dikes by raising the embankments of river Dubbel and the river Merwede, to protect against the flooding of river water.  According to local residents, the floods of 1150 turned the creek into an important stream and thus Dordrecht expanded on both sides of its riverbanks. After the expansion, the houses built on the other side of the dikes, had been unprotected until today.

To protect the houses on the other side of the dikes from flooding, the authorities introduced stop logs on the doorways and streets to keep out water.

Thomas Jansen, the policy official of Climate adaptation and urban Development of Dordrecht, demonstrated to the group a place where city administrators could completely block the roads and streets with stop logs in the event of flooding. He said that although this part of the city never floods, the government officials still checks all these arrangements once a year to check if they are working well.

Karin Noeverman, a policy officer of Dordrecht delivered a detailed presentation to the visiting group on the city's outreach to its citizens through exhibitoins titled "What if the water rises in Dordrecht?" to relay evacuation plans.

He also explained how city administration worked during massive floods which hit the city in the past. He spoke about how the preparedness emergency management works in case of any massive flooding, how spatial planning and layout prevents flooding, and how the government has managed to protect the city by constructing different layers of the dykes around the city.

 

Mike Deckert, Student at Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam showing photo album of past flooding / Courtesy of Amar Guriro

Mike Deckert, a student at Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam, works as a volunteer with Dordrecht administration. To the group, showed a photo album of the city's history with floods. The album had a famous photo in which an old man watched the high water level from the window panes of his home with water touching the window panes and also other photos in which city officials wereblocking the streets with stop logs and sand bags during flooding.

Today, when many cities are at risk of urban flooding, the Dutch city of Dordrecht can be wonderful model.

Amar Guriro is a Karachi, Pakistan based freelance environmental journalist and president of National Council of Environmental Journalists (NCEJ)