This Dutch city has been sinking for hundreds of years

Innovation at a cost.

The Netherlands is known as the country of cheese and bicycles, and for being the flat European country below sea level. As it turns out, the city of Gouda is especially in trouble.

With a city centre that floods regularly and houses that slowly sag, Gouda’s inner city drops between three and 10 millimetres per year, says National Geographic.

While that doesn’t sound like a lot, the cheesy namesake has been sinking for a THOUSAND years. So, what’s being done to save the so-called Groene Hart (Green Heart) of the Netherlands?

A bit of engineering history

Dutchies strategically built canals, dunes, and walls to live around (and on top of) reclaimed land from the North Sea.

Like most of the Netherlands, Gouda was built on the same reclaimed land, which has especially soft soil. Within 100 years, the city sinks anywhere from 30 centimetres to one metre.

READ MORE | Why is the Netherlands so flat? The complete explanation

The fact that the city has been sinking wasn’t a problem for a very long time — but sentiments are slowly changing, especially given the impact of climate change.

Six metres under

The tactics of the Gouda residents were pretty simple: make sure the home was built on a raised floor. The more the house sank, the higher they would raise the floors.

If (and when) they noticed their heads were getting close to the ceiling or the house sagged too much, they demolished the entire house and used the debris to build a new one.

READ MORE | Why the Netherlands isn’t underwater (VIDEO INSIDE)

But as time went on, the debris piled up (or piled below?), and now there’s at least six metres of debris beneath the city.

And to make matters worse, the city’s foundation is STILL sinking — and it’s getting dangerously close to groundwater, which increases the nuisance for residents even more.

Raising the city and fighting floods

Now, the city has a plan to keep water off the streets by using some of those top-notch Dutch engineering and water management skills.

By regulating the water levels in and around the city, the municipality has created a polder (an artificial body of water for water regulation) around Gouda. While the sinking is irreversible, this slows it down with minimal intervention.

But Gouda isn’t the only city in trouble. As Gilles Erkens of Deltares tells National Geographic: “There are nine million people living and working [on weak grounds]. As sea levels rise, every inch of height loss is a deterioration of our future prospects.”

Did you know that Gouda was slowly sinking? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Feature Image:Depositphotos
Katrien Nivera 🇵🇭
Katrien Nivera 🇵🇭
Third culture kid Katrien has been working as a writer and editor at DutchReview for over two years, originally moving to the Netherlands as a tween. Equipped with a Bachelor’s in communication and media and a Master’s in political communication, she’s here to stay for her passion for writing, whether it’s current Dutch affairs, the energy market, or universities. Just like the Dutch, Katrien lives by her agenda and enjoys the occasional frietje met mayo — she just wishes she could grow tall, too.

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