Land and Water
"God made the the world, but the Dutch made Holland"


Land is very precious in the Netherlands and there is a special relationship between the Dutch and their land, which they have so painstakingly reclaimed from the sea or converted from swamp. It is that relationship which has shaped their character. Their history has been a constant struggle to control the natural forces of water. About half of its surface area is less than 1 metre (3.3 ft) above sea level, and much of it is actually below sea level (see map showing these areas). An extensive range of dykes and dunes protects these areas from flooding. Numerous massive pumping stations keep the ground water level in check. The highest point, the Vaalserberg, in the south-eastern most point of the country, is 322.7 metres (1,053 ft) above sea level.The Vaalserberg is a foothill of the Ardennes mountains. 

A substantial part of the Netherlands, for example, all of the province of Flevoland (contains the largest man-made island in the world) and large parts of Holland, have been reclaimed from the sea. These areas are known as polders. This not only explains why The Netherlands is called "A land won from the sea" but has also led to the famous Dutch saying "God created the world, but the Dutch created the Netherlands". There is a feeling of pride that they have survived so well under adverse conditions. At the same time, however, they affectionately refer to their country as  ‘a little place fit for frogs’ ( ‘kelin kikkerlandje’).The unpredictable and offten wet weather is part of this picture.Infact the ‘struggle against the water’ was usually less dramatic than Dutch folklore would suggest.

The country is situated on a river Delta. Without intervention, the costlines of sand dunes and marshes would be constantly changing. To live here, where 60 % of the land is actually below the sea level, you have tobe able to control and guide the swells and shifting streams. This is water management and this has been going on this region for more than 1000 yrs. The concept of shaping the environment through engineering is thereforedeeply ingrained. Dutch school children, in their Geography lessons, learn a remarkable amount of about hydraulics.