Peter – Zuiderzee/SDG’s

Boffey, Daniel. “Marker Wadden, the Manmade Dutch Archipelago Where Wild Birds Reign Supreme.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, April 27, 2019. 

When I was doing the readings, one of the things that immediately stood out to me was a line in “8 – Draining and staying dry: dikes and pumping stations.” The author writes, “there were neither extensive reports on the environmental impact available at that time, nor any possible influence on the planning and no options for objections or appeals against the government decision.” This seemed like it would be in direct contradiction to the Sustainable Development Goals (even though it was 80 years before the creation of the SDG’s). Building a massive polder to house more people in what was then a lake without considering the environmental impacts, specifically to biodiversity, seemed like the antithesis to sustainable development.

When I looked into the SDG’s to find what this would violate, I was shocked to find that it apparently wouldn’t violate any SDG’s or their indicators. The obvious choice for apparent violations is #14: Life Below Water. However, three of the five indicators focus on fishing practices. Only one focuses on biodiversity, and even then it is “mean area that is protected in marine sites important to biodiversity.” Other SDG’s like #13: Climate Action and #6: Clean Water and Sanitation also fall short in addressing biodiversity; the former focuses on carbon emissions and the latter focuses on drinking water.

So from the Dutch perspective, because the IJsselmeer and Markermeer had already become empty, silty lakes devoid of any wildlife by the time the SDG’s were created, they don’t necessarily need to protect the areas. This is despite the fact that the former areas of the Zuiderzee had been teeming with wildlife, all of which had been destroyed by human intervention. The SDG’s don’t require any commitment to revitalizing biodiversity. If the violations of biodiversity happened before the SDG’s were created, it doesn’t seem like the UN cares.

However, I did some basic research and the Dutch are making a step forward in reinstating biodiversity in the Markermeer. A Guardian article from 2019 details how the Dutch are creating five artificial islands as a refuge for plants, birds, and other wildlife. They’re doing this despite facing no normative pressure from the SDG’s to do so – only political pressure from domestic voters.


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