Building the World

Disappearing Coastlines


Amsterdam, a city that knows how to build upon water. Image: wikimedia commons

Amsterdam, named for a dam built in the Amstel River, was once the richest city on earth. Dutch prosperity and success may have developed because of urban ports, but waterfront harbors bring challenges of land erosion, flooding, pollution, and other environmental challenges. The Dutch have been protecting their sinking coastline since Pliny wrote about their ingenious methods, many still in use today, as they manage the intermittent overflows of the rivers Meuse, Rhine, and Scheldt, as well as the sea. With a coastal defense safeguarding 65% of the land surface, the system of protective dikes and land reclamation of the Netherlands might offer answers to today’s disappearing coastlines, from the Maldives to Manhattan.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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