When you travel to the partner in Rome for a ‘Waterfront Climate SOS’ project, you are focused on your mission: consultation, making project reports, editing case studies. But when you arrive, you find yourself in a severe heat wave. A sweltering weekend with a new temperature record for the month of June on Monday: 40 0C. In general, Rome does not have extreme temperatures, because it is quite close to the sea. But this week the maximums are around 40 degrees every day. Despite the somewhat more heat-adapted lifestyle of the Italians, this will undoubtedly require a considerable number of heat victims. But it doesn’t stop with direct victims. Cries for help have been heard from the Po Valley for much longer. The Po is the longest river in Italy at 650 km. The river is fed by meltwater from the southern part of the Alps and rainwater from almost all of northern Italy. The rain stays off. Because the glaciers of the Alps have become much smaller, and all winter snow has already melted, the current heat wave is not causing much additional meltwater for the Po. As a result, the river is almost dry. Hydroelectric power stations have to close and that is a problem now that the air conditioners are blowing all over the country. Several towns in the Po plain have already implemented water rationing. But the most serious problem is agriculture: it is already expected that the harvest in the Po plain this year will be only 50% of a normal harvest. Rice cultivation in particular will suffer severely from the drought.

The waters of the Tiber are the lifeline of this eternal city. The city of millions from antiquity that, after periods of decay, was repeatedly rebuilt with stones from the past and with the grandeur of our own time. The sea, which received the meandering river water closer to the current city than now, brought salt to the city. The water that flowed from the mountains to the sea has flooded the city a lot. The oldest squares and the Pantheon were located in the lowest parts of the city and were built so that flooding water was part of the public space where people gathered to honor various higher powers. Water mirrors formed special parts of the ritual space, and drainage points for rainwater formed a decorative pattern in the floor of, for example, the Pantheon. Stepped stone banks kept trade throughput flexible. Sewer systems were separated from clean water supply. Only after the flood of 1870 was the Tiber confined between tight high quay walls, in order to prevent flooding of the city. Rigorous measures that are now being rethought, with a focus on climate change. The question is whether flooding is the biggest threat to the future of the city? The high walls do their job but ultimately threaten the water management of the city and thus also the hospitality for people and the preservation of the priceless culture of the eternal city. The quay walls are one of the defining elements of great infrastructure, as are the city walls, the routes, the hills and of course the water. The magic of Rome enchants anyone who sees with their own eyes where histories converge in places that give new life to people time and again. But humans are part of nature in which they may or may not survive. My question is: how is Rome going to give new life to nature? I looked at that, I drew it and photographed it. I talked about that with many people while we also enjoyed life.

Karen Jonkers (CPONH) on her way to Stockholm; driving to the 30-days ‘SOS Climate Waterfront’ project session of Stockholm May-June 2022, overthinks the differences of the effects of sea-level rise of Denmark and Sweden. In Sweden the land rises faster than the sea-level rises so different to Denmark where the land falls.

Germaine Sanders feels Rome, enjoys her Rome Secondment for ‘SOS Climate Waterfront’ initiative; by drawing, drawing and drawing all the way, from the morning to the evening. Her first impression were the seven hills of Rome, the city foundation. As from these hills, she explores further!



Karel Mulder’s observations and experiences during his secondment-visit in Rome

We have a beautiful Dutch showpiece: the sand engine, a great solution for strengthening endangered parts of the coast and creating new coastal nature with only a modest intervention. A wonderful solution for other erosive beach lines you would say. This coastal erosion is partly a natural process, sand simply moves along the coast and that is why many Wadden islands grow on the east side. But that sand comes from other places where it can’t always be missed. Moreover, a higher water level and more storms as a result of climate change accelerate that process. That is why it is a good idea to build something like the sand motor in targeted areas. But in the Mediterranean, coastal erosion has often been a problem for much longer. The deltas of the Nile, Ebro and Tiber have expanded greatly in history, but have been retreating for much longer. The Tiber delta coastline continued to grow until the early 20th century. As a result, the classic port of ancient Rome, Ostia, is now about 4 kilometres from the current coastline.

No sand motor

How did this happen, this shift of the coastline? Sand and clay on the coast come from rivers: mountains and agricultural land erodes and ends up in the sea via rivers. Many large rivers enter the sea in the Netherlands/ Belgium/ North Germany. The North Sea bed therefore mainly consists of sand and clay, and that material also supplements the coast. Tiber, Ebro and Nile also drain sand and clay, but this has decreased drastically in the past century. This is due to several reasons. For example, the water discharge from rivers has decreased due to much greater water use in agriculture. Many dams have also been built: to feed hydroelectric power stations and to have enough water for agriculture, industry and cities. But those dams barely let sand and clay through, so that material accumulates in the water reservoirs. Result: Silt accumulates behind the dams, but sand and silt are no longer supplied on the beach, and that coastline is affected in many places around the Mediterranean Sea. Then a sand motor at the mouth of the Tiber? Where would that sand come from? The southern part of the North Sea is about 40-50 meters deep and sand can be extracted there in many places. The Tyrrhenian Sea (between mainland Italy, Sardinia and Sicily) is often hundreds of meters deep at about twenty kilometres from the coast, and has virtually no sand; a sand motor is therefore not just an option. In that case, the sand supply by rivers must therefore be restored in order to preserve the coastline. Because the beaches of Lazio are a tourist attraction, and they protect a few hundred thousand inhabitants and the Roman airport Fiumicino. But that just doesn’t happen. The sand that has accumulated in the water reservoirs is often extremely polluted. So it cannot just be thrown over the dam into the river. In addition, of course, the erosion of agricultural land must also be limited, so as not to endanger agricultural productivity. And those dams also produce sustainable electricity, so they combat climate change and cannot be missed! And finally, river management in Italy is characterized by fragmented decision-making and an enormous amount of interests. Ultimately, there will be little more to it than some careful restoration of the sand and silt discharge of the Tiber, and the prevention of coastal erosion by all kinds of measures such as the construction of breakwaters (which will drain sand along the coast against), planting of extra dune vegetation and regulating beach use. A complicated task not only for the Tiber estuary and other areas of deltas in the Mediterranean but also for many other areas, e.g. in West Africa, where similar problems arise.

The H2020 Marie Curie ‘SOS Climate Waterfront’ program has 160 secondment trips of which the NL-Team has the honour to complete 16 (10%) of them. After two years of shutdown due to covid-19, travel will start again. For the following 5 events (Rome, Stockholm, Gdansk, Rome again and Lisbon) the Dutch secondees are ready for travelling.

From the team of 18, 3 have travelled (Fred, Hugo and Jelle-Jochem) and 15 are preparing their 30-days journey. They present themselves at the Dutch website: cponh-sosclimatewaterfront.nl and in this newsletter. All are professionals in research and have a background in urbanism and/or architecture, from which some have a specialism in journalism. It’s great to have so much knowledge on the team. Each of them is looking forward to meeting the secondees from the other participating cities, talking with them, scare insight and discussing measures for each of these cities. To support citizens in the EU, not only in these cities and back home in the Netherlands, for all EU citizens.

Planning schedule

As soon the NL-Team found out that travelling could be planned again, they came together and made talked-over their choices. The result is as given in the travelling planning schedule. They will visit the host cities in small teams, coordinate their contribution in their self-steering groups, and tune their reporting together. Teams are:

  • Rome March-April 2022: Karel Mulder, Charmaine Sanders and Jeroen & Aline Brinkman.
  • Stockholm June 2022: Karen Jonkers, Jos van der Mark, Bert Harmelink, Metha Bregman.
  • Gdansk, October 2022: Robert Niessen, Tineke van de Schoor and Ilia Neudecker.
  • Rome, February 2023: Ingrid Wentink.
  • Lisbon, May 2023: Karel Sant and Fred Sanders.


This article was also published in the newsletter SOS Climate Waterfront Newsletter Q1-2022

We can use this period of silence in travelling to discuss issues of climate change and what the impact is to residents of coastal areas. Therefore this mini-webinar of only 1,5 hours was organized, to discuss the influence of climate change of our cultural main dish on the table. The Dutch team and our quest from Portugal participated. Understandable most of the

invited did not come, because universities and municipalities are busy in these weeks to start up businesses and life now covid-19 ceases down. Of course, we hoped on more participants for this mini-webinar, like in the cartoon-like figure shows below.

Jeroen Bakker of HZPC NGO pitched of with his presentation on seed potatoes. His firm is for more than 100 years active in the development of breeding potato varieties, including the production of seed potatoes. His message was, now more and more households in countries worldwide choose for potato on the dinner-table because of its nutrient-rich value, the responsibility for good seed in variety grows. The difficulty nowadays is that climate conditions for production in these countries change rapidly by climate-change. Thereby salinization i

s a growing difficulty, not only because sea-level rise causes an influx of saltwater, also irrigation increases the salinity of the soil in many counties with less rainfall. Trial fields in the Netherlands have yielded that many varieties are salt resistant nowadays. The changing conditions in these countries though continuously reduce quality and performance. The colour for instance, can be an issue. In many countries, people associate the yellow colour with quality and good taste, which becomes an issue when a browner variety seems to be more salt-resistant in this country. Not only people but also restaurants and fast-food chains deal with these changing circumstances.

Zeespiegelstijging en tegelijk stijgen ook binnenlandse  dijken voor Nederland geen oplossing – Prof. Maarten Kleinhans (UU)

Lees het hele verhaal op NU.nl.

We were there! We especially enjoyed the sessions: “water” and “resilience”.

Naturalism ideology for resilient coastal cities; blog Fred Sanders

Amazing the article of ‘Marcel aan de Burgh’ in Dutch NRC Newspaper today; giving an overview of us humansbeings and out approach to nature. How we since Descartes in the 17th century introduced the ‘Naturalism’ approach, to see nature on our earth as separated from ourself. The contrary approach of course is that we with almost 8 billion people on this earth are part of nature. Interesting is how the writer couples both paradigms to the moral obligation that we have to care for nature to survive, that we have to manage that nature grows back to the healthy baseline, to recover forest existence and Insects population for instance. It’s an eye opener for me reading these approaches so well unrafled in this easy to read one A4 article. I almost not dear to critisize the message. Helas I do miss the conclusion that ‘being part of nature’ can also result in accepting the mutual influence of all species on out earth, trees, insects and human beings, and all that lives and grows on earth. I am by reading of this article more and more interested how life on earth becomes to look like if we do nothing, if climate-change goes on like it abs always done, wil we people disappear, will new animals and plants develop. Only if we can learn what that interpretation of naturalism will brij ng us, our behaviour can be measured. That would give us refences from the past and the future, to make up our mind. Of course this must have be studied somewhere, only I don’t know where. I am interested who will give me the right hint. It will be interesting for our ‘sos climate waterfront’ project too I resume. Nice thoughts, thanks to this great article of NRC Newspaper.

Fred Sanders