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Dutch customs


"Polder politics" in The Netherlands

A polder is a section of land below the local water-table, enclosed by dikes and equipped with a water-evacuation system....

The operation of a polder, the primary unit of low-lying Dutch land, is more complex than the evacuation of water.

The necessities of managing water-flow in property below the elevation of the natural table has always been further complicated by the shared ownership of land within a polder, the relationship between neighboring aquatic features (including other polders,) and the requirement for the management of large amounts of water flowing across land with little topographical variation.

Discussion and co-operation have always been essential qualities in Dutch culture. The agreements that are necessary in the function of these water systems require a decision-making process that is communal and conciliatory.

The Dutch have a tendency to form policy by consensus in place of leadership. This, the so-called "poldermodel" or "polder politics," comes intimately connected with requirements in a land where local, regional, and national decisions about water have always determined mutual well-being and survival.

Even beyond the obvious need for neighborhood consensus on infrastructure directly related to the evacuation of excess water, there are various ways that strictly local action can influence an entire polder. Even construction that covers a significant area could affect the water table of the polder. An area of open water may be requisite in order to offset the effect of a large greenhouse, for example.

These decisions are matters for discussion and pragmatic thinking.