Peter Glas on Limburg flooding: ‘Solution always involves a combination of measures’

The flooding in Limburg, Belgium, and Germany has called extensive attention to the main themes of the National Delta Programme. For the time being, this page will present narratives featuring Delta Programme Commissioner Peter Glas.

‘Solution always involves a combination of measures’


Nieuws en co, broadcast by Radio 1, reported on Delta Programme Commissioner Peter Glas’s visit to the flooded areas in Limburg. After his tour, Mr Glas deliberately refrained from providing specific advice, in order to prevent problems in locations such as Valkenburg: ‘It will always involve a combination of measures, e.g., water retention in areas north of the city, and preventing rooftop rainwater from flowing straight into the brook. Reinforcing the construction of houses, shops, and other buildings, to make them less vulnerable. I doubt whether we can keep every foot dry, with 100 millilitres to 200 millilitres of rain in a single day, but we will be exploring all the potential solutions. Living with water has many advantages and occasional setbacks; we will have to accept that.’

* Item with Peter Glas starts after approximately 58 minutes

‘Looking ahead rather than waiting for the disaster’


In De Ochtendspits, broadcast by BNR Nieuwsradio, Peter Glas commented on the Limburg flooding. The Delta Programme Commissioner reported on the efforts to create more room for water. ‘Room for water involves both the major rivers and smaller bodies of water, also in urban environments,’ he stated. ‘Every square centimetre in the Netherlands has a purpose. And since the 1990s, the Netherlands has realised that room must also be created for water. This means that, for example, combinations must be sought with nature reserves and farmland. In the Netherlands, we have systematically been working to address situations such as in Limburg, and we will continue to do so. Rather than waiting for the disaster, the Delta Programme aims to look ahead. It will always be a work in progress.’

‘New questions on relationship between major and minor waters’


The English-language website Dutch Water Sector paid extensive attention to the flooding in Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands. Delta Programme Commissioner Peter Glas was also interviewed. ‘Much damage has been prevented, but the flooding has also raised new questions, many of which relating to the major and minor waters.’ Mr Glas is not sure whether the events will have serious consequences for the National Delta Programme. ‘These conditions were quite extreme,’ he says. ‘We will have to see whether this was a unique phenomenon, or whether it will occur more frequently.’

‘Resilience must be enhanced, vulnerability must be reduced’


What are the main lessons learned from the Limburg flooding? The medium H2O put this question to Delta Programme Commissioner Peter Glas. ‘I cannot predict how this will affect matters, but I can’t imagine anyone anywhere in the Netherlands thinking that the flood protection standards could be toned down a notch. Actually, this situation teaches us that we need to base our spatial planning even more emphatically on room for water. More room for water and knowledge of the soil constitute the key to our resilience against extreme weather. Our resilience must be enhanced, whilst our vulnerability must be reduced.’

‘Earlier advice against lowering dyke standards’


In a Nieuwsuur interview, Delta Programme Commissioner Peter Glas reviewed, inter alia, the situation regarding the dykes in Limburg. ‘Two years ago, the Provincial Executive of Limburg raised questions about the new statutory system of 2017, encompassing new standards for the dykes. These had put them off, and they asked whether the standards could be lowered. Only a month ago, we recommended firmly against lowering the lowest standard. I told them: look before you leap. Under the current circumstances, the Minister has adopted this recommendation.’

‘Practical stress test for Meuse Projects’


In the Met het Oog op Morgen radio programme, Delta Programme Commissioner Peter Glas reported on, inter alia, the Meuse Projects. In the interview, Mr Glas emphasised that the damage in Limburg was predominantly caused by water originating from the hills, and that the hydraulic structures in the Meuse are largely holding up, albeit with support from various emergency services. ‘The water from the hills was devastating and caused damage,’ he stated. ‘Now this water has flown into the river Meuse and into the Meuse valley. For us, this is a stress test to check whether actual practice fits within the image that we had, which underpins our design of the Meuse Projects. People have been evacuated as a precaution, but the Meuse has not yet caused any major disasters. Together with the authorities, we will examine whether the Meuse Projects still suffice in actual practice, or whether we need to prepare for worse events in the future.'

•    Listen to the full interview with Peter Glas (starting at 15.30 minutes)

‘More attention to be paid to brooks, streams, and spatial planning’

In the NRC newspaper, Delta Programme Commissioner Peter Glas considers current water management in the Netherlands, prompted by the Limburg flooding: is it up to par? The article addresses both sides of the issue. For example, the medium indicates that the Dutch efforts since the 1990s have clearly helped to prevent more trouble. ‘Up to well into the 1990s, Limburg was regarded as a river valley, whose flood defences were not covered by the national standards,’ Mr Glas explains. ‘This was only set down in law four years ago. That is a gain.’

According to NRC, minor local and regional measures are lacking. ‘A great deal of room has been created for the major rivers, but attention for brooks, streams, and spatial planning must follow the same pattern,’ says Mr Glas. With a view to the future, the article places particular emphasis on spatial planning as the solution, but the Delta Programme Commissioner mainly focuses on construction. ‘What I want is to force water and soil experts to join the discussion. If we refrain from action, and global temperatures rise, damage in the Netherlands will rise to some seventy billion euros by 2050.’

‘The force of water, the power of nature’


Delta Programme Commissioner Peter Glas was a guest on the Humberto talk show of Friday 16 July, which largely revolved around the Limburg flooding. He gave his account as a representative of the National Delta Programme. ‘The events demonstrate the force of water, the power of nature,’ he reviews. ‘We can resist, but there are limits to what we can do. Wet is becoming wetter and dry is becoming drier. How will we cope with such extreme weather? That is one of the reasons why a Delta Programme Commissioner has been appointed.’

Furthermore, Mr Glas referred to the growing awareness of climate change, and the importance of considering current taskings from a broader perspective. ‘The economy is developing, and the population is growing. Consequently, we are continuously reviewing where and how we want to live,’ he commented. ‘Such matters also determine how we view the future. And as the Delta Programme has already stated: we must not wait for a disaster, but think ahead.'

•    View the complete broadcast (logging in via RTL XL required)

‘Doing nothing is not an option; climate change is a given’


Newspaper Trouw discusses whether the Limburg flooding could have been prevented. The article also lets Delta Programme Commissioner Peter Glas have a say. ‘Look at the footage and you will have your answer: not during this extreme weather,’ he states. The Delta Programme Commissioner also elaborated on the pertinent efforts of the National Delta Programme. ‘All the municipalities have conducted stress tests over recent years,’ he relates. ‘What are the risks of flooding, of waterlogging, or of extreme heat and drought? The next question is: how do we adapt our country?’

In the article, Mr Glas also emphasised the need for climate adaptation in order to prevent similar events: ‘If water management is factored into every project – a new residential area or a motorway – right from the start, the additional costs will not be very high. In the Netherlands, every square metre is restructured within a generation. Let’s adapt to the circumstances, that is my plea. Every shovel that goes into the ground must be climate-proof.’