|May 13: Danish coast illustrates Waterman's vision
If you want to know what a double coast, as promoted by Ronald Waterman for the Netherlands, may look like – just travel 1000 kilometres up north to the Danish coast between Esbjerg and Thyboron.
On the map, the southwest Danish coast north of Esbjerg shows a curved, nearly continuous line of dunes orientated from south to north with considerable 'fjords' of salt water behind them. This landscape is reminiscent of the so called Double Coast that Ronald Waterman sees as the sustainable future for the Dutch western Coast.
At some places in Jutland, like the Ho Bugt northeast of Esbjerg, the sea reaches far inland, but it ends in enormous muddy flats where at low tide no water can be seen – just the silvery surface of the mud plains. However, at high tides water may rise well beyond the edge of the mud and submerge local roads behind it. Warning signs for flooding are posted along the road.
In time, a unique landscape and ecology have developed. The combination of dunes and heath that covers about 500 km2 is quite unique in Europe. Heath ('Hede') is usually on the west side, merging into the dunes ('klit'). Further into the mainland, trees grow and forests have developed. The map shows many of these 'klit plantations' as the eastern outgrows of the nature reserve.
The Danish coast is very natural in comparison with the Netherlands. Salt water intrudes far into the land and passages to the sea are mostly open, whereas in the Netherlands nearly all waterways to and from the sea have been protected by (temporary) dams and sluices.
The Dutch have chosen to enclose many of the inland waters by dykes and to pump them dry, thus increasing their tiny land with fertile polders. The Danish, perhaps because of lower population pressure, seem to have left their coast much like they found it.
The sturdy row of dunes in the west of Jutland seems to protect the land behind it pretty well. The sand banks and shallows in front of the coast break the power of the waves before they even reach the foot of the dunes. The land behind it is well protected, eventhough many salt waters behind the coastlines rise and fall with the tide, creating dynamic and diverse landscapes.
Recreating such a system however – like Waterman proposes - seems no easy task. Creating a second row of dunes all along the Dutch coast that reaches several meters over the water level, where now water depths are around 30 metres, means an awfull lot of dredging and immense quantities of sand to be displaced.
Eventually the double coast system may be sustainable and environmentally attractive, but ironically it will take enormous efforts and fuel to convert our current unsustainable 'hard' coast into a more natural one. Perhaps it's just the fate of the Dutch: once you start interfering with nature, there is no way back.