The Netherlands has long looked to shore up its lowlands from being subsumed by the North Sea giving rise to the age-old networks of canals and dykes which have proven crucial in holding back both rivers and seawater.
However, this historic struggle seems to be on the brink of being lost in the capital Amsterdam, as years of neglect and mass tourism leave the vibrant city’s canalside street littered with holes and houseboats under threat from collapsing mooring.
Cyclists have even been known to plummet into the water below as the canal path crumbles beneath their wheels.
While no injuries have been reported as yet, an urgent solution costing millions of euros has been proposed in order to protect Amersterdam’s mediaeval infrastructure and maintain the city’s reputation as a global tourist destination.
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Buildings were created on wooden piles during Amsterdam’s original growth from the 12th Century, with concrete piles being installed later.
The piles were used to create stability in the marshy and unstable ground surrounding the Amstel river.
Over the centuries, these wooden support columns have moved, broken, or completely collapsed, causing the bridges and canal surrounding structures to droop and fracture.
Water seeps into these cracks, eroding the mortar, rotting away the beams causing sinkholes to develop.
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For the last four years, officials Amsterdam have been restoring crumbling bridges and quay walls.
The local government has set aside millions of euros, to tackle this issue.
By April, officials estimated that between 80 and 125 bridges, and a large stretch of quay walls, would require rehabilitation work over the next 30 years.
Local officials have been criticised for ignored repeated warnings about the state of the city’s bridges and quays.
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In January, a local news outlet named AT5 highlighted a five-year period in which officials had consistently issued warnings about the waterways’ perilous status.
The article mentioned an incident in which a diver refused to conduct checks beneath one of Amsterdam’s ageing bridges due to the risk of sudden collapse.
In 2020, a section of the quay wall near the University of Amsterdam gave way without warning.
Fortunately, there were no reported injuries according to the city authorities who later blamed it on a sinkhole.
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