Vlissingen Coast

Zeeland: Land of the Sea

This story is the 4th of my series about how the Netherlands protects the country and its people from sea surges and sinking land by creating barriers and dikes while expanding through reclamation.  

(See also Netherlands: The Land of Reclamation, Rotterdam: The Manhattan of the Maas River and

Amsterdam’s Future: Man-made Islands)

Zeeland, or land of the sea, is the westernmost province in the Netherlands and the least populous but the population gets doubled during the summer when sun and beach loving tourists from all over the country and Germany descend.  

It is called the Land of the Sea because it consists of a number of islands and peninsulas. Zeeland has two seaportsVlissingen and Terneuzen that sits directly across Belgium across the sea. With an area of 2,934 square kilometres, 1,151 square kilometres of it is water. It sits at the mouth of many major European rivers. 

Given its condition and location, Zeeland has had a long history of battle with the sea.  The biggest threat has been sea surges. In 1953, Zeeland was flooded. More than 2,000 people perished while houses and farms were submerged in water.

To avoid this tragedy from happening again, the Dutch government had embarked into the most imaginative, expansive and ambitious engineering project called Deltawerken (Delta Works). It aimed to protect Zeeland and the provinces around it from flooding and sea surges.

Constructed between 1954 and 1997, Delta Works consist off damssluiceslocksdykeslevees, and storm surge barriers. The aim was to shorten the Dutch coastline, thus reducing the number of dikes that had to be raised. Along with the Zuiderzee Works, the Delta Works have been declared one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Zeeland and Deltaworks are just a testament of the saying: God created the world but the Dutch created the Netherland.