The Wadden area is a special part of the Netherlands. The national Delta Programme for the Wadden area defines the ambitions and measures for flood risk management in a natural Wadden area. A preferred strategy has been drawn up for the area. The extensive intertidal area in the shallow Wadden Sea (consisting of islands, mud flats, salt marshes and channels) provides a buffer against high waves from the North Sea. The maintenance of this buffer and dike upgrades ensure that living and working on the Wadden Islands and on the mainland on the shores of the Wadden Sea are possible.
The entire Wadden Sea, from Den Helder to Esbjerg, is on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. It is one of the world’s most important wetlands and it is home to unique natural assets.
The extensive intertidal area in the shallow Wadden Sea (consisting of islands, mud flats, salt marshes and channels) provides a buffer against high waves from the North Sea. Without this buffer, the flood defences on the mainland coast and on the islands would have to be significantly stronger and higher. The intertidal area of the Wadden Sea needs sand and silt to follow sea level rise. If the sea level rises faster, more sand and silt will be needed. If the intertidal area can no longer keep up with the rise, the buffering effect is impaired.
Some sections of the dikes on the mainland side of the Wadden Sea, the Ems-Dollard and the islands do not comply with the statutory standards at present. These defences are therefore being upgraded. Innovative dike upgrades for the Lauwersmeer-Vierhuizergat, Koehool-Lauwersmeer and Den Helder-Den Oever sections are under development. Work has already begun on the Lauwersmeer-Vierhuizergat section. These dike upgrades also contribute to broader area objectives such as strengthening natural values and improving living conditions. A preliminary study is now in progress for the Zurich-Koehool dike section; the exploratory study is scheduled for 2026 onwards. It is expected that all the dike upgrades planned at present to meet the new legal standards will be completed by 2050. Due to sea level rise and land subsidence, more upgrades will be needed in the future.
Preferred strategy for the Wadden area
A preferred strategy has been drawn up for flood risk management in the Wadden area in the context of the Delta Decision for Flood Risk Management and the Sand Decision. The implementation of this strategy has taken shape in the form of measures that match the nature goals for the Wadden area as closely as possible.
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