Visit Holland - The Netherlands


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Term Definition
Polders and the Netherlands

The Netherlands is frequently associated with polders. This is illustrated by the English saying: God created the world but the Dutch created Holland. The Dutch have a long history of reclamation of marshes and fenland, resulting in some 3,000 polders nationwide. About half the total surface area of polders in north-west Europe is in the Netherlands. The first embankments in Europe were constructed in Roman times. The first polders were constructed in the 11th century. As a result of flooding disasters water boards called waterschap (when situated more inland) or hoogheemraadschap (near the sea, mainly used in the Holland region) were set up to maintain the integrity of the water defences around polders, maintain the waterways inside a polder and control the various water levels inside and outside the polder. Water bodies hold separate elections, levy taxes and function independently from other government bodies. Their function is basically unchanged even today.