Mapping Modernity

12. Directe Plan

2 November 2023

Ominous advice regarding closing off Zeeland

Two days before disaster strikes, engineer Johan van Veen presents his superiors with an ambitious plan to partially dam the sea arms in the south-west of the Netherlands. A rough sketch, certainly not a technical design, but the idea is clear. The goal is in line with Lely’s plans for the Zuiderzee: reduce the vulnerability of dikes by shortening the coastline. Since the 1930s, Van Veen has a reputation as Rijkswaterstaat’s ‘difficult’ official. Time and again he refers to the neglect of the seawalls. However, the Second World War has resulted in a damage to numerous dykes, caused by inundations and bombing, and the focus on their reconstruction stands in the way of serious action. Many elements of the later Delta Works are already incorporated into this plan, but Van Veen is more cautious about the power of water in the estuary mouths: he draws fences deeper inland and counts on siltation in the Voordelta breaking the most powerful waves before they reach the dams. Was the original of this iconic report destroyed after it had been digitized? Fortunately, the National Archives held another copy.

Rijkswaterstaat, Directie Benedenrivieren, afdeling Studiedienst, Directe Plan (tot afsluiting der tussenwateren), (Rijkswaterstaat, Directorate of Lower Rivers, Study Department, Immediate Plan (to close off intermediate waters), The Hague 1953, appendix 1 in: Afsluitingsplannen der tussenwateren, nota van Hoofdingenieur A.J. van Veen aan de HID Rijkswaterstaat, directie Benedenrivieren, 29 January 1953. ) (Plan to shut off enclosed waters, note from Chief Engineer A.J. van Veen to HID Rijkswaterstaat, Directorate of Lower Rivers, 29 January 1953Coll. National Archives.