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sharply. That is why the Great Garuda dam is now being built

offshore. The dam is an enormous investment but combining

it with land reclamation for the expansion of the city and a

ring road means that the project is still economically viable.

The Dutch Delta Programme combines flood risk management

with freshwater supplies and also contributes to spatial

development and the strengthening of the regional economy,

integrating flood risk management in the overall development

of an area.’

To what extent does the type of measure play a

role here?

‘That’s another thing you have to consider. On the one hand,

you have low-regret interventions that are useful for several

reasons, that can be applied flexibly when necessary, and

that do not cost a great deal. On the other hand, there are

interventions that require major investments and that are

inflexible in the sense that they will be in place for decades to

come. Climate change means that showers will become more

frequent and heavy, causing local flooding. You can prevent

that by making changes to the drains, but that does mean

that you have to dig up roads. On top of that, drains have a

lifetime of 50 or 60 years and so you won’t want to be doing

that every five years. A more flexible alternative is to stop the

rain being drained away as quickly by means of green roofs

and gardens, or open car parks, or by allowing more water to

be stored temporarily in cities in wadis and water squares.

When it comes to coastal defences, it is worth considering

forebanks or mangrove forests as an alternative to dikes and

dams, or combining functions by, for example, integrating a

car park in a dike.’

The difficulty remains that you have to know

the right steps to take, and when. How do you

go about that?

‘You can’t improve administrative and policy flexibility

without a system for monitoring developments. You also

need to be constantly asking whether the current strategy

for water management is still effective given the various

scenarios for climate change, and for democratic and socio-

economic developments. If it isn’t, we say that a tipping point

has been reached: the point at which we have to conclude

that one strategy is no longer adequate and that it is time

to take additional measures to prevent damage. In that

way, administrators and society as a whole can respond as

effectively as possible to the unpredictability of the climate

of the future, and to other natural and social changes.’

For more information:

How does climate adap­

tation work in practice?

Consultants William

Oliemans and Herman

van der Most talk about

their work in Bangladesh

and Thailand. ‘Climate

adaptation is not just a

one-off exercise.’


Senior ground and water

consultant WilliamOliemans

is working on Bangladesh’s

Delta Plan.

‘Bangladesh is the world’s largest and

most densely-populated delta. Rivers and

floodplains account for approximately

eighty per cent of the surface area of the

country and they are essential to feed the



Bangladesh, photo: Lydia Cumiskey.