Monday, March 09, 2009

About dykes

I have been reading the articles relating to dykes on the English Wikipedia. For me it is an amazing article because so many things in this article are problematic. I live in a polder, effectively below the sea level and understanding how dykes works is important in the Netherlands.

When I read that willows are used to strengthen a dyke, I am utterly amazed, my grandfather had his sheep on a dyke because they ensured that there would not be any willows as trees undermine the very structure of a dyke. It is suggested that in Dutch the ditch on the inside of a dyke is part of the dyke. This ditch is to drain away the water seeping from under a dyke and aims to prevent saturation of the ground because this is a precursor to a breach. But it is not at all considered to be part of the dyke.

There is also an argument in the article that an authority that enforces the maintenance of a dyke is not needed. The problem is that the lack of enforcement is quite deadly. When a dyke breaks everybody may drown, not just the people who are living next to where there is a breach. It would be folly to rely on people's individual responsibility; it is a shared responsibility and there is little room for error. Pre dynastic Egypt may have been less centrally organised, but there is in my mind no doubt that (local) enforceable arrangements existed.

The Dutch dykes have to be effective because half our country depends on them. As we do expect the sea level to rise, we are working on improving out dykes and the ability to drain the Rhine and the Meuse to prevent a catastrophe.

My problem with writing on the English Wikipedia is that I am acutely aware of the existence of all kinds of rules. The articles about the dyke is merged with levee because it is considered the same. There is a Wikipedia project involved... I find I have to invest serious time in order to argue why I think the article is wrong. Time that I do not have spare.
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