Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 60.djvu/559

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THE DRAINING OF THE ZUIDER SEA.

THE DRAINING OF THE ZUIDER SEA.
By Professor J. H. GORE,

COLUMBIAN UNIVERSITY.

GOD made the world, but the Dutch made Holland' is a saying quite common with people who visit the Netherlands; and as one looks upon the great sea dykes that keep the North Sea from sweeping over North Holland or the smaller dykes that hold the rivers within their channels, it is easy to see that the retention of the land created is possible only with great vigilance and care. Lakes have been drained and their beds converted into arable land, useless bends have been taken from the rivers and the ground, once covered by marshes, has become fertile gardens. The map of Holland shows many changes, not only in the coast line, but in the water covered areas within.

The draining of the Haarlem Lake was looked upon as a marvel of engineering skill and patient industry, but the work here discussed is far greater in magnitude and presents technical and economic difficulties never before encountered.

A clause in the constitution of the United Netherlands permits the organization of new provinces. However, when it was written, there was in mind the possibility of rearranging the eleven provinces in such a way as to enlarge the number. The acquisition of territory of any considerable area was not thought of until 1848, when it was proposed to drain the Zuider Sea, which, if accomplished, would add a province somewhat larger than Zeeland.

In 1892, Queen Emma appointed a commission, consisting of the Minister of Water Affairs and twenty-nine members to consider the general question of converting this shallow inland sea into agricultural lands. Two years later, a very elaborate report was submitted, in which the problem was discussed from every conceivable standpoint. So many questions were raised in this report and so much discussion was provoked that it was not until last summer that the people generally realized what the Commission actually proposed and how the work was to be done. The air has been sufficiently cleared to enable one to assert that while it is universally conceded to be possible to drain as much of this sea as may be desired, there remains the feeling that while the cost of this undertaking is certain, the benefits are by no means sure.

It is proposed to build a sea dyke from Ewijksluis in North Holland over the island of Wieringen to the Frisian Coast near Piaam, a dis-