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Land Reclamation: A Brave New World Of Man-Made Land

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Land is one of society's most valuable resources, but human intervention and environmental disasters often destroy the value and usefulness of existing bodies of water. In the past century, engineers have found a way to successfully create more land. The process is called "land reclamation," and this technology has already resulted in two massive success stories.

What is Land Reclamation?

"Land reclamation" is the process of "reclaiming" land from a body of water, like the ocean, the sea, or wetlands. It can also mean returning land that has been greatly affected by human activities or natural disasters back to a valuable, usable state.

History of Modern Land Reclamation

Land reclamation is a relatively new activity. Land reclamation techniques are rapidly revolutionizing, and the need for the reclamation of land is, simultaneously, rapidly arising,

Port of Rotterdam: First Modern Land Reclamation Project

Historians believe that, around 900 A.D., people began settling and developing land in the Netherlands around the North Sea. About three hundred years later, the settlers created the "Port of Rotterdam," and one of the earliest known land reclamation projects began.

The first land reclamation projects that the Dutch residents undertook included building canals, dams, and dikes. Amazingly enough, they also lassoed the power of wind and used large windmills to create "polders," which redirected water from the sea and into the land areas so that it could be used for farming and human use. 

After many centuries and consistent attention to land reclamation projects, the Port of Rotterdam grew into the world's busiest sea port. This is partially because, beginning in the 1900s, the Dutch turned toward modern land reclamation methods; their engineers successfully created 895 square miles of land through two projects, the Zuiderzee Works and the Delta Works. The engineering project, which incorporated land reclamation methods never before attempted, was so impressive that it is now considered to be one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World.

The Palm: Largest Modern Land Reclamation Project

In the 1990s in the city of Dubai, United Arab Emirates, the seeds were planted for the creation of what would become the world's largest collection of man-made islands. The end goal was a luxury tourist attraction that both maximized beachfront property and celebrated the nation's culture; in the end, engineers met both goals with the creation of a palm-shaped design. 

In 2002, the project began. Engineers modeled techniques after the successful Netherlands land reclamation project methods, but had to significantly alter the excavating process because of the vast geological difference. The project was successful and, today, The Palm is a testament to land reclamation.