Rijkswaterstaat: Guardian of the Dutch Delta

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Abstract

Founded in 1798, Rijkswaterstaat, the Dutch government’s agency for infrastructural works, brought flood security, navigable waterways and highways to the Netherlands. It is an iconic institution within Dutch society, best known for its ‘battle against the water’. The Zuiderzee Works (1920–1968) and the Delta Works (1954–1997) brought worldwide acclaim. This chapter tells the story of a humble semi-military organization that developed into a formidable institution of civil engineers with a strong technocratic mission mystique. It also recounts the institutional crisis the agency experienced in the 1970s–1990s when it was too slow to adapt to major sociocultural and political changes. To ride the waves of change, it eventually developed several proactive adaptation strategies and reinvented its mission mystique in managerial terms. Adaptation to climate change now presents another key challenge, for which Rijkswaterstaat will have to develop a new ‘social license to operate’.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGuardians of Public Value
Subtitle of host publicationHow Public Organisations Become and Remain Institutions
EditorsArjen Boin, Lauren A. Fahy, Paul 't Hart
PublisherPalgrave MacMillan
Pages237-261
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-030-51701-4
ISBN (Print)978-3-030-51700-7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021

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