Eastern Scheldt: from nature – to human reserve

Neeltje Jans

Deltas are of great importance to humans all over the world. Densely populated coastal areas where land arises from sea. An amazing gradient where two worlds meet and nature and humans traditionally proliferate. It is the area where one hears, smells and sees the awakening of nature between the ebb – and flood line. It is where the sailor exalts navigation to a form of art and where he falls dry with his boat to be alone and to enjoy the mind-expanding vastness. Yet these qualities increasingly disappear due to the great technical advances since the 19th century, which tried to control the marine dynamics of deltas to ensure safety of the hinterland against inundation.

The Delta Works in the Netherlands embody this. The masterpiece of the Delta Works meant the construction of a national icon: the Eastern Scheldt Storm Surge Barrier in Zeeland, which does not only withstand storm surges, but even controls the tides of the sea daily in its Eastern Scheldt. However, this permeable dam has resulted in the erosion of the intertidal area (1) and subsequently in an insatiable demand of sand, which increases annually due to sea-level rise. The intertidal area will have disappeared in about 2080 as a consequence of this sand hunger (2), with major social – and ecological problems as a result.

Besides sand hunger, Zeeland also suffers from space hunger. The rise of mass recreation in the past century has led to the cluttering of holiday parks in the hinterland of the delta, which destroy the lowlands and the sea in their vastness. Therefore, a holistic solution for the Zeeland delta does not only secure the intertidal area, but also encompasses the finding of a suitable place for recreation in its delta.

This is achieved by means of the deconstruction of the Eastern Scheldt storm surge barrier and Grevelingendam, and using the resulting new marine dynamics (3) to promote the social – and ecological situation of the Eastern Scheldt. The new coastal defense systems (4-6) protect the hinterland from inundation, grows along with sea-level rise, and is in itself a new landscape entity of Zeeland in which the function of recreation becomes integrated into the landscape (7-11). This way Zeeland is strengthened integrally between sea and land and the Eastern Scheldt (12) is transformed from a nature – to a human reserve, where all interactions live together as an obviousness.



Figure 1: The Eastern Scheldt Storm Surge Barrier caused a decrease of tidal volume and thereby shifted the marine dynamics from a sand exporting – to a sand importing system. 

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Figure 2: As a consequence of the shift in marine dynamics the intertidal area will mostly have dissappeared in 2080.

ZW Delta Concept High-Low-01-01

ZW Delta Concept Low-High-01-01







Figure 3: The Eastern Scheldt Storm Surge Barrier is deconstructed along with the Grevelingendam. The new marine dynamics are used to stimulate the social – and ecological situation of the Eastern Scheldt.


Figure 4,5,6: The new multifunctional coastal defense systems do not only answer the social – and ecological situation of the region, but also their cultural history aesthetically. 


Figure 7: Watervillages become part of the new coastal defense systems, unveiling the qualities of the delta to its visitors

Neeltje 1op15000 Masterplan

Figure 8: Neeltje Jans, the terrain section of the barrier, as the symbol of the old – and the new relation between man and water.

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Figure 9, 10: Former parts of the barrier become breakwaters and borders to protect the new heritage and the most vulnerable shores at the mouth of the Eastern Scheldt.

Surf village

Figure 11: Surf village Neeltje Jans

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Figure 12 Human reserve Eastern Scheldt in which all interactions (co-)exist as an obviousness.


Full access at:

Eastern Scheldt: From nature – to human reserve (2015)

For consultation or more info please contact the author

Koen Steegers (koensteegers@gmail.com)

e-lecture ‘how to design a landscape machine’

Here is the complete video of the e-lecture on landscape machines.

It contains some minor technical failures, as were part of the original e-lecture,


Yours, Paul R.

The Ems Full Hybrid


Over the last thirty years the Ems estuary has changed from an open and natural estuary into a highly controlled and disrupted system. Due to adaptations for the benefit of shipping transport and industry, the system has become a sludge importing system, resulting in a brown and turbid estuary with zero oxygen production and an ever-decreasing biodiversity [2].

This disruption is the consequence of an unbalance between the estuary gully-width and estuary tidal-basin. The basin has been decreased due to reclamations, diking and damming and the gully has been widened and deepened for navigation. To revitalize the estuary, this balance has to be restored while at the same time maintaining the agricultural and industrial viability of this dwindling region [1].

Two new elements are introduced to estuary to restore the balance: tidal polders [3-6] to increase the tidal basin and break waters made from old oilrigs [7-10] to decrease the gully width and tidal inflow. The new elements are designed in such a way that they solve the turbidity problem, form new industries, create new habitats, raise water safety and produce food. Turning the Ems into a hybrid-system with a restored ecosystem, new economic possibilities and remaining accessibility for birds, seals and large ocean cruisers.

Problem analysis: An imbalanced system causes the sludge problem in the Ems estuary:


Figure 1: The problem of the Ems-estuary in summary: A small tidal basin (P) and an unnatural gully profile [A], to ensure enough draft for large ships, results in a system out of balance.


Figure 2: The system compensates by importing an overload of sediment, resulting in a dead ecosystem

Tidal polders, powered by cruise ships, to enlarge the tidal basin:

sluis+tidal polder

Figure 3:

kaarten_tidalpolderFigure 4:

Brakish nature_DEF_plat

Figure 5: Dammed water in the tidal river, to ensure enough depth for cruise ships, is used to flood the tidal polders to create new space for sediment to settle.

Breakwaters made out of oilrigs to narrow the gully profile:

Oilrig industry-01

Figure 6: Currently  more than 500 oil rigs in the North Sea are waiting for dismantling; a potential €40 billion industry, which could boost the economy of the troubled Ems region.



Figure 7 -8: While the top side of the platform is dismantled by metal-processing industries, the jackets are used as breakwater to narrow the gully profile.


Figure 9: The breakwaters are fascinating objects engaging men, and also attracting high amount of birds and aquatic animals (hard substrate habits 25 procent of all sea life).

Did we draw your attention?: Read the whole thesis online

The Ems Full Hybrid by Jonas Papenborg & Remco van der Togt (2012)

For more info please contact the authors:

Jonas Papenborg [jonas.papenborg@gmail.com; LinkedIn]
Remco van der Togt [remco.vdtogt@gmail.com; LinkedIn]