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Netherlands Geography

Geography

The Netherlands is a very flat country with almost 25% of its land at, or below sea level.

Low rolling hills cover some of the central area, and in the far south, the land rises into the foothills of the Ardennes Mountains. Vaalserberg, the country's highest point is located there, rising to 322 m (1,053 ft).

Over many centuries severe floods devastated the Netherlands, killing tens of thousands. Determined to save their homeland and reclaim it from the sea, the Dutch used countless windmills to pump water out of low-lying areas. They constructed man-made hills (polders), raising the level of farms and villages. In the early 1930's the damming off the sea efforts continued when the Afsluitdijk (dike) was built.

In 1953, extremely high water (once again) caused nearly 2,000 deaths, mostly in the southern reaches of the country (Zeeland). Subsequently the country needed a major change, and so began the Delta Project.

The plan (project) was to construct a large series of outer sea-dikes, and inner canal and river dikes to protect this fragile land from disastrous flooding brought on by the constant pressures applied to it by the North Sea. All would be supported by gigantic pumping stations designed to control and protect ground water levels.

Today nearly 50% of the land here remains just above sea level. The massive and costly Delta project and other engineering marvels have to date prevented the North Sea from doing any significant (additional) damage. However, climate change and rising waters could prove daunting to the Netherlands in the future.

Stretched along the northern coastline, the West Frisian Islands continue on to the northeast, becoming the German East Frisian Islands. These barrier islands, separated from the mainland by the Waddenzee, provide a small level of protection from the North Sea.

The Netherlands is crossed by hundreds of miles of navigable canals. One of the most important is the North Sea Canal, as it enables ocean-going ships to reach the port of Amsterdam. Satellite picture here!

Water, water everywhere, as the central and southern Netherlands are positioned at the delta of four major rivers, including the Rijn, Mass, Scheldt and Waal.

The countrys largest lakes, Ijsselmeer and Markermeer are both manmade, created by dikes.

Geography Netherlands
Location: Western Europe, bordering the North Sea, between Belgium and Germany

Geographic coordinates:

52 30 N, 5 45 E

Map references:

Europe

Area:

total: 41,526 sq km
land: 33,883 sq km
water: 7,643 sq km

Area - comparative:

slightly less than twice the size of New Jersey

Land boundaries:

total: 1,027 km
border countries: Belgium 450 km, Germany 577 km

Coastline:

451 km

Maritime claims:

territorial sea: 12 nm
exclusive fishing zone: 200 nm

Climate:

temperate; marine; cool summers and mild winters

Terrain:

mostly coastal lowland and reclaimed land (polders); some hills in southeast

Elevation extremes:

lowest point: Zuidplaspolder -7 m
highest point: Vaalserberg 322 m

Natural resources:

natural gas, petroleum, peat, limestone, salt, sand and gravel, arable land

Land use:

arable land: 26.71%
permanent crops: 0.97%
other: 72.32% (2001)

Irrigated land:

5,650 sq km (1998 est.)

Natural hazards:

flooding

Environment - current issues:

water pollution in the form of heavy metals, organic compounds, and nutrients such as nitrates and phosphates; air pollution from vehicles and refining activities; acid rain

Environment - international agreements:

party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Air Pollution-Sulfur 85, Air Pollution-Sulfur 94, Air Pollution-Volatile Organic Compounds, Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Kyoto Protocol, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands, Whaling

Geography - note:

located at mouths of three major European rivers (Rhine, Maas or Meuse, and Schelde)

Note: The information tabled directly above was researched by and provided by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency

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This page was last updated on August 13, 2015.