Level with me: Can an artificial mountain give the Dutch economy a rise?

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Think of the Netherlands and you probably imagine windmills, endless fields of bright red tulips and cyclists pedalling over dykes.

All things, in short, associated with a country whose name is synonymous with pancake-like flatness. But one Dutch columnist has sparked an energetic debate by proposing an artificial mountain in the country.

Thijs Zonneveld, a former cycling professional, admits he initially suggested the idea in the magazine De Pers as a joke, but the idea of an ‘Alp in the Polder’ quickly caught fire.

“Every year millions of Dutch people head to other countries in search of the mountains,” he wrote. “To go skiing, après-skiing, trekking, cycling, climbing, rafting, paragliding, picnicking, or joining the ‘orange carnival’ on Bend Seven of the Alpe d’Huez [a famous stage of the Tour de France which draws thousands of Dutch spectators].”

There are, inevitably, extreme challenges involved in realising the plan. For a start, a 2000 metre-high mountain would require a base 10 kilometres square – and such space is hard to come by in Europe’s most densely populated country.

But Zonneveld is a firm believer that where there’s a will, there’s a way, pointing to the fact that half the existing Netherlands were reclaimed in previous centuries from the sea or marshland.

“There is not much difference in essence between building a mountain and draining part of the IJsselmeer, or putting up flood defences,” he reasons.

His idea, first hatched a month ago, has already triggered a flood of interest from architects, geologists, marketers and economists, prompting a follow-up column entitled “A mountain is built on goodwill”. In these economically challenging times, could this be the ultimate "big society" initiative?

Source: De Pers
Photo by [*- Dave Hoffers & Xander Krüger]

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