Following the damming of the Zuider Zee and the formation of the IJsselmeer, the coastline east of Amsterdam was transformed by the creation of the Netherlands’ twelfth and newest province, Flevoland, which was reclaimed from the sea in two major phases. Drained in the early 1930s, the Noordoostpolder was the first major chunk of land to be salvaged and during the process two old Zuider Zee islands – Urk and Schokland – were joined to the mainland. The original aims of the Noordoostpolder scheme were predominantly agricultural, with the polder providing 500 square kilometres of new farmland, which the government handed out to prospective smallholders. Yet it soon became apparent that there were issues: very few trees were planted, so the land was subject to soil erosion, and both the polder and the adjacent mainland dried out and started to sink – problems that persist today. The Dutch did, however, learn from their mistakes when they came to drain the next large slice of Flevoland in the 1950s and 1960s: they created an encircling waterway, which successfully stopped the land from drying out and sinking, and the government tried hard to make the new polders more attractive to potential settlers, planting mini-forests and setting aside parkland. Together, these two newer polders, the Zuidelijk Flevoland and Oostelijk Flevoland, now form one large chunk of reclaimed land in front of the old shoreline, effectively a polder-island that comprises the bulk of Flevoland. The new polders were also used to house urban over spill with the creation of two new medium-sized towns, Almere and Lelystad, the latter named after Cornelis Lely (1854–1929), the pioneering engineer who had the original idea for the Zuider Zee scheme.

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