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Dutch customs

"Polder politics" in the Netherlands

A polder is the section of land enclosed by dikes, a unit equipped to evacuate water from below the water-table.

The operation of a polder - enclosed low land - is complex. It is a science and a politics.

Managing flow and levels beneath a natural table is further complicated by any shared ownership of land within a polder, relationships between polders and aquatic features inside and outside - and great rivers flowing across land with little topographical variation.

Polders and their agreements require communal talk, discussion and co-operation, policy by consensus.

There are a lot of ways that actions can influence neighbors, in a polder. Construction may keep enough rain out that open water may be necessary in order to offset the effect. Work adjacent to a polder may be influential if it changes hydraulic pressure — or dries a dyke, which can induce cracking.

And, if the water-evacuation system fails, if the extra-polder reservoir system overfills, water may have to be dumped onto valuable land.

There are a lot of decisions that have to be made by discussion and pragmatic thinking - bringing a preference for concensus; polder politics.