POLDERKOORTS - BOOKSUMMARY: DUTCH’S TIRELESS WAR AGAINST SEA (WITH VIDEO)

June 07, 2018

Over the last few weeks in the Netherlands, we have been constantly hearing news and celebrations, on “100 Jaar Zuiderzeewet”, “Zuiderzeewerken”, “Cornelis Lely”, “Afsluitdijk”, …etc.

What are they actually? Why the whole country, especially the people of Amsterdam, North Holland, and Flevoland provinces celebrate it so grand? A Dutch colleague of mine gave me this book – Polderkoorts (translated to "Polder Fever") which answered all those questions.

Polderkoorts takes us to an interesting history of Dutch’s tireless war against the sea waters. It’s a Dutch book; I don’t expect you read it. However, I thought it's worth sharing the summary of such an inspirational story with all of you.

Here’s a short summary of Polderkoorts ( AN INSPIRING VIDEO BRIEF AT THE END)

The Netherlands (literally means "low land") was always vulnerable to flooding in the past. It got worse between the 8th and 13th centuries, since these floods slowly connected all smaller lakes within the country with the “Northern Sea” (Wadden Sea), thus created a huge water body - called “Zuiderzee” or The Southern Sea.

This Zuiderzee made the Netherlands defenceless to floods - more than ever! Over centuries (14th to 18th) the water from the Zuiderzee periodically swept-in and flood the north region, destroying thousands of people, cattle, and crops.

Here comes the hero - Cornelis Lely (born in 1854). Besides being a Civil Engineer, Politician, and Statesman, Lely was also one of the greatest visionaries – who devises a plan to construct a dam across the Zuiderzee; but there was not enough support nor budget allocation from the government 😒.

In the meantime, The World War - I started in 1914. Though the Dutch played neutral, all their neighbours were at war. This meant scare of food and drinking water supplies to the Netherlands. Being a small country with large population, The Netherlands desperately needed fertile land to keep its growing population fed., in addition to the existing plans to tame the Zuiderzee.

100 years ago, on the 14th June 1918, the parliament re-looked at Cornelis Lely’s plan and passes the "Zuiderzee Act" with 3 clear goals. The project was named as “Zuiderzee Works”.
1. Protect the north and middle regions from Zuiderzee:
This resulted in the construction of “Afsluitdijk” - the largest dam in Europe. This huge dam across the sea has never broken in the last 85 years and saved huge damages withstand across the seas.

2. Create & cultivate new agricultural lands to increase the food production:
This made a new province - "Flevoland", which comprises of  Lelystad (named after Cornelis Lely), Almere, and Noordoostpolder. Another polder “Markerwaard “is on hold/yet to be completed.

3. Increase the supply of fresh (drinking) water from the uninhibited seawater: 
After damming off the north sea, all the salt was pumped out and water inlet was transformed into a freshwater lake, called the IJsselmeer (IJssel Lake), one of the largest freshwater reservoirs in the world.

Check out the video below that I compiled using the bits & pieces of clips/pictures from the Rijkswaterstaat (The Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment). Hope you'll like it!


This Zuiderzee law/project is one of the main reasons, why the Netherlands is World leader in the Hydraulic Engineering and Water Management, and why they are one of the rich countries of Europe and the 2nd largest food supplier of the world.

Does anyone need a better reason to celebrate its centenary year😇?

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10 comments

  1. I found this article really interesting. A lot of people owe their lives and livelihood to Cornelis Leli (They could at least have named the Dam after him though)

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  2. The title is fun to say, the Zider Zee is a beautiful sight and worth the long trek

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  3. I always learn something new visiting your blog. Thank you!

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  4. Sounds like an interesting story! Great review!

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  5. Sounds very interesting. Thanks for sharing.

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  6. Sounds interesting. I lived there for a while years ago. Such a lovely country.

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  7. It's so inspiring. Thanks for sharing.

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  8. Hanneke Van der WaalsJune 8, 2018 at 9:59 AM

    One of my favorites

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  9. Thanks for sharing an inspiring story.

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