From: Reuters
Published February 3, 2008 07:10 AM

Dutch to explore new ways to defend coastline

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The Dutch government said on Friday it would explore new ways of protecting its coastline from the effects of climate change, including the use of ground-breaking sensor technology.

The Netherlands, which has a quarter of its territory below sea level, will spend 22 million euros ($32.7 million) on anti-flooding projects. Companies and research organizations will contribute an additional 23 million euros.

One project aims to equip all flood defenses with sensors and electronics to monitor sudden changes in water levels.

"The climate changes. It is therefore of great importance to be able to predict flooding at an early stage," the Dutch cabinet said in a statement.

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Water has long been a threat to the Netherlands, which translates as "Low Countries," while global warming has contributed to a rise in sea levels, adding to flood concerns.

The world's largest computer services company IBM, one of the firms involved in the project, said on Friday it planned to set up a centre for water management which would use data and forecasting models to give earlier flood warnings.

Djeevan Schiferli, Business Development Executive Climate & Energy at IBM, said a number of different suppliers were developing sensor networks to measure the stability of dikes for example, but there were no standards for exchanging the data.

"You need to combine all that knowledge and information if you want to be able to know when a situation will become potentially dangerous. All the different components are there, but they are in some cases too simplistic and they're not connected," Schiferli said.

The Dutch have a long history of pioneering technology to help claw back land in the sea and fight flooding. In 1953 a massive North Sea storm breached the country's dikes and killed about 1,800.

The government also said it would invest in a project studying how best to use the ecosystem, such as natural sand flows, for flood protection.

U.S. officials sought advice from Dutch experts on water management after floods devastated New Orleans in 2005, and Dutch firms have been central in major coastal developments worldwide.

The Dutch government said any new technology would be available for export.

(Reporting by Harro ten Wolde and Niclas Mika; Editing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa)

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