The Netherlands is a geographically low-lying country, with about 20% of its area and 21% of its population located below sea level. As much as 50% of its land lie less than one meter above sea level. With two thirds of its area vulnerable to flooding, flood control is an important issue for the Netherlands. The country utilizes a system of embankments, dikes and sluice gates along the seafront and on the mouths of the rivers to prevent storm water from surging in from the sea.
In 1953, after a massive flood in the North Sea that killed 1,835 people, displaced 70,000 more and caused damages worth 1 billion Dutch guilders, the government started building a series of dams, sluices, locks, dykes, levees, and storm surge barriers around the Rhine-Meuse-Scheldt delta to protect the area from flooding. Collectively known as the Delta Works or North Sea Protection Works, the barriers are an engineering marvel that the American Society of Civil Engineers has named one of the “Seven Wonders of the Modern World.”