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Dykes

A Task that Unifies the Community

We find dykes by the sea, by lakes, rivers and even streams. They protect settlements from floods and make it possible to actually use the surrounding land. The simplest flood protection that can be found on the Lower Rhine is in the form of dwelling mounds. Farms are built on mounds of earth and protrude from the water like little islands when there is a flood. True to the motto "every man for himself" this system still works very well for houses. However, to secure and maintain pastures and fields you need a closed system of dykes. The more intensively a flood plain is to be used, the more elaborate the dyke structures, so it is hardly surprising that powerful men took responsibility for it. In the 12th century a Count of Kleve started to build dykes to make his estates more productive. Managing the dyke system, however, became a challenge that demanded commitment from all involved. The search for a solution took centuries. Princes, monasteries, town councils and landowners, which otherwise did not necessarily get on, came together to form 'dyke associations'. They issued various dyke laws and regulations. This resulted in quite a patchwork. It is therefore hardly surprising that it was the order-loving Prussians who finally installed an enclosed embankment dam system in the shape of the "Clever Deichreglement" [Kleve Dyke Management] which has subsequently been constantly expanded and improved. Today the Xanten-Kleve Dyke Association alone manages 38km of flood protection systems and the Bislich Landesgrenze Dyke Association another 45km. However, the straightening of the Rhine in particular has changed the circumstances in which floods occur since the first flood protection measures were taken. The river carries ever more water at an ever greater speed. Ultimately we can influence the height of the floods with the course of the dykes. The more land is left for the floods, the lower the dykes can be.

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