Speaking notes for Delta Commissioner Wim Kuijken for the presentation to be held for the French delegation on 13 April in Zeeland

Ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you very much for your kind words and in particular for your interest in the Delta Programme. In a brief introduction, I will explain the motivation for the Delta Programme, the approach and my role as Delta Commissioner.


Today you have visited a significant part of the Dutch Delta. The Netherlands is situated in a low-lying, prosperous and densely populated delta that is vulnerable to flooding. Almost 60% of the country is subject to flooding. Around 9 million people live here and there is a huge amount of invested capital. A conservative estimate is that it totals about EUR 1,500 billion.

Motivation for the  Delta Programme

There are three urgent reasons for a national Delta Programme:

  • the Netherlands seems to be well protected but our safety is not yet fully assured. Not all the dykes comply with the legal standards.
  • the protection of our dykes and dunes is based on standards that date from the 1960s, after the disaster of 1953.
  • nature is capricious and there are uncertainties. These uncertainties increase with global warming. What is certain is what we actually measure within and outside the Netherlands:
    a. the temperature has risen by 1,7 ºC in the past century;
    b. sea levels have risen by about 20 cm in the past century and in the past ten years this has accelerated to 30 cm per century world wide;
    c. river discharge annual maximums have risen by around 10 to 20% in the Rhine and Meuse.
    It is sensible to be well prepared for the rest of this century.


The Delta Programme should ensure that the Dutch people and the Dutch economy remain well protected against flooding, now and in the future. The Delta Programme should also ensure a proper water supply in the longer term. This is an important precondition for our economy.

The Delta Programme will receive a (legal) basis in the Delta Act. The blueprint for this was submitted to the Dutch Lower House on 1 February 2010. Because of the fall of the cabinet, the act has not yet been passed. This act also covers the Delta Fund and the tasks and authorities of the Delta Commissioner. This combines an indispensable legal basis with the necessary financing and organisation for a successful short- and long-term approach, to keep the Netherlands safe from the water and also ensure an adequate supply of fresh water in dry periods.

The unique thing about the Delta Programme is that it is aimed at disaster prevention. It is not a reaction to a disaster. It is being set up in a period in which safety is under control. With such a national approach we will not be forced to opt for quick ad-hoc solutions if things go wrong, but we are able to develop and implement proper and attractive safety solutions.

The programme is also unique because it combines measures for water safety and fresh water supplies with our ambitions for the development of nature and spatial planning.

Role of the Delta Commissioner

The Delta Commissioner is a government commissioner with a central position in the administrative field. He leads the national programme and has direct access to ministers and the minister-president, the regional authorities and parliament. There will be a separate Delta Fund, with 1 billion Euros per year from 2020. The DP concerns this century and prepares measures for up to 2050 and thereafter.

The Delta Programme publishes its budget in September every year. More important is the manner of working:

  • I want to involve everyone;
  • joint fact finding;
  • providing room for connection between the players;
  • searching for innovative ideas;
  • horizontal working between the management layers involved.

The basic values of the Delta Programme are solidarity, flexibility and sustainability. And as departure points cohesion, consistency and transparency.

The problem is complex but challenging, unique and relevant for the Netherlands. The number of players is large. The commissioning authorities are the State and the regions. There are nine sub-programmes, of which three are generic (safety standards, fresh water strategy and housing construction) and six are area-oriented (including this Southwest Delta sub-programme and also the coast and the riverside areas of the Rhine and Meuse). We work with broadly composed programme organisations. There is a central role for the directors of the sub-programmes. Steering groups connect the state and the regions and manage the sub-programmes.

The proposals come together in the National Administrative Council, where the Delta Programme is discussed.

I am taking the time for a thorough reconnaissance. At this time we must avoid discussions about individual interests in favour of the joint interest: the safety of the Netherlands and fresh water supplies. It is necessary to prepare for choices together.

The delta decisions give direction to the developments in several sub-programmes. These are political, structural and preconditional for decisions in several areas. They are of essential importance for cohesion and connection in the Delta Programme. At this time there are 4 delta decisions:

  • basic resolution about safety standards in 2011;
  • a strategy for fresh water supplies in 2014;
  • the protection of Rijnmond in 2014 (preferably earlier);
  • management of the level of the IJsselmeer in the long term in 2015.

These are subjects of discussion in the region and there is room for a 5th Delta decision.

I am open to ideas and invite people for discussions, reflection and contradiction. For example, about the organisation of the Delta Programme, collaboration, renewal and the significance of the delta decisions for cohesiveness. This keeps us all sharp!


It has been an honour to be able to introduce you to the motivation and approach to the Delta Programme and my own role therein. I hope that I have inspired you with this story and have given you ideas to share and possibly further develop in your own country.

I wish you a pleasant stay in this magnificent part of the Netherlands.