Escaping the Water Wolf

Escaping the Water Wolf

Dutch dam

Global Perspective is the BBC World Service's international documentary series.

Each year the BBC World Service collaborates with radio stations from around the world to make a documentary series on a contemporary subject of international importance and interest.

Each partner station contributes a documentary which gives a local interpretation of the chosen theme, and this year the theme is Escape.

Programme One: Escaping the Water Wolf

Made by Michele Ernsting of Radio Netherlands Worldwide, it looks at the constant battle of the Netherlands to keep the water out.

Over two thousand years ago the Dutch began digging simple ditches to drain water from their boggy ground.

With this first small act they embarked on millennia of attempting to escape from what a famous Dutch poet referred to as "the water wolf".

As a consequence of their actions, land which was once several metres above sea level has now sunk to several metres below and is only kept dry by constant pumping.

Today, climate change brings new threats of sea level rise and increased rainfall.

In response the Dutch parliament is stimulating innovation to control water.

People have responded with a variety of proposals, the most ambitious is the creation of an island chain in the North Sea.

But are these grandiose ideas in themselves escapist?

The programme visits Nieuwerkerk aan den Ijssel, which, at 6.76 metres below sea level it's the lowest point in Europe.

The Mayor there is planning to build tens of thousands of new homes in the shadow of a dyke which collapsed during the last great flood of 1953.

Other contributors include a hydrologist, a flood survivor, and two women who recently produced a community play dramatising the 1953 floods.

It has taken great ingenuity and luck in the past, but can the Dutch go on 'Escaping the Water Wolf'?

First broadcast on March 21 2008

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