How should the Netherlands deal with rising sea levels?

Will we choose to protect ourselves against the water at all costs and continue to raise our dykes, make barriers in the sea or will we move with the sea? Will 'Je retirerai' (I will withdraw) instead of 'Je maintiendrai' (I will maintain) soon be our motto?

The latter is a serious question raised by a number of students from the River Delta Development (RDD) master's programme during their Coastal Systems Track module at the HZ. Four groups of students examined the strategies of Deltares on how the Netherlands should deal with rising sea levels: protecting, moving with the sea and seaward. "We asked the students what these strategies mean for various aspects of the coastal system and Dutch society," says researcher Wietse van de Lageweg of Building with Nature. "In doing so, they combined their knowledge of coastal systems with change processes for sustainable solutions."

The students had to work out all the strategies, such as the idea that is least popular in many people's eyes: moving with the flow. In this strategy, the Netherlands retreats to the east and gives the sea some space. A group of students used a timeline to show how this idea could take shape. Until 2120, when the Dutch motto will be 'Je retirerai', more and more parts of the Netherlands will be flooded. There will be 'wisselpolders', new forms of agriculture, floating houses, 'Almere by the sea' will be created and Utrecht will become the capital of the Netherlands. "Controversial as it may be, the students have thought hard about how this could happen. They showed that dealing with sea level rise is a long-term task, but that decisions affecting this strategy are close at hand."

Less controversial is the seaward strategy. This was also worked out by a group of students. New forms of coastal defence will be introduced at sea, such as artificial islands. It sounds simple, but there is a lot involved.

The other groups worked out the strategy for continuing to protect the Netherlands. There is both an open and a closed variant. In the open variant, the Netherlands continues as before; in the closed option, the Netherlands is cut off from the sea. Students showed that both variants have a great impact on the economy, ecology and society.