The residents in the river region were confronted anxious times in 1993 and 1995. The water levels were extremely high and the dikes just managed to hold. A quarter of a million people had to be evacuated.
Extremely high river discharges will occur more frequently in the future and for this reason it was decided to ensure that the rivers could discharge the forecast greater volumes of water without flooding. The Government approved the Room for the River Plan (Approved decision Room for the River)(PDF 2,5MB) in 2007.
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The rivers in the Dutch delta are sometimes required to process huge amounts of water in very little time. In order to limit the risk of flooding, Rijkswaterstaat (the Dutch department for Public Works and Water Management) is working on the 'Room for the River' programme.
A total of 17 partners - the provinces, municipalities, water boards and Rijkswaterstaat are cooperating in the implementation of the Room for the River Programme. The Minister of Infrastructure and the Environment bears the overall responsibility for the Programme.
The area available for the rivers has decreased continually during the past centuries. The rivers are confined between high dikes and more people live behind the dikes. At the same time the land behind the dikes has sunk due to soil subsidence. In addition, since it now rains harder and more frequently the rivers need to discharge more water to the sea. A flood in the current conditions would put the safety of 4 million people at risk.
The continued strengthening of the dikes is an option that would reduce the risk of flooding. However, any flood at nevertheless occurred would result in even greater damage since more water would flood to the sunken land behind the dikes. A trend has to be broken if the Netherlands is to be a safe, comfortable and pleasant country for its inhabitants. The answer is given by the 'Room for the River' plan. The Dutch government is taking action to improve safety and to protect the land and people living behind the dikes from floods. The river will be given more room at over 30 locations covered by the 'Room for the River' Programme. The main objectives of this programme are to complete the flood protection measures by 2015 and to improve the overall environmental quality in the river region.