The West Frisian Islands are a chain of 5 large and 8 smaller islands in the Wadden Sea, a part of the North Sea, lying off the Dutch coast. Dutch schoolchildren learn the acronym TVTAS - which means 'television bag' - to remember the order. It lists the first letter of each island, from west to east. Texel is the biggest, approximately 160 sq.km in size, and with tulips, windmills, woods, dunes, dykes and polders is said to be 'The Netherlands in miniature'. It has a permanent population of 13,450 half of whom live in the main town of Den Berg. The agricultural sector dominated the island for centuries but since the 1960s tourism has become the main source of income. Within a ten-year period, the number of registered tourism beds increased from approximately 14,000 in 1960 to 33,000 in 1970. The increase in the number of campsites was largely responsible for this growth. Against this background the municipality of Texel issued the first 'Basic Plan on Recreation' in 1974 that stipulated an absolute maximum number of 47,000 overnight places. Nowadays, this figure is still used by all parties on the island as a reasonable ceiling for tourism growth and one of the reasons why Texel is still considered to be a green island.
Renewable Energy & Eco Housing
The municipality of Texel has a vision for their island to have a fully sustainable energy supply by 2020. Following earlier studies and produced by Ecofys and the Foundation for a Sustainable Texel, the municipality published a report in May 2008 with a programme of work detailing 44 projects that it wished to implement by 2011. This included establishing a 0.5 MW offshore pilot tidal farm in the Marsdiep sea strait between Texel and Den Helder that will consist of six 10-m diameter Tocardo Aqua T150 offshore turbines suspended from a floating platform.
Since the mid 1990s Texel has been making considerable progress with introducing alternative energy systems. It began by placing 325 m2 of solar panels to heat water for the swimming pool in Den Berg. Now there is a high concentration of PV panels (4500 m2) found on various town buildings, business premises, private homes and the new marina in Oudeschild. Other feasibility or pilot projects have been initiated on small urban wind turbines, the use of hydrogen, fermenting organic refuse to produce biogas, low temperature heating systems, PV powered LED lighting for roundabouts, combined with a major energy saving campaign which allows all house owners (including those who own a holiday home) to obtain a discount for Energy Performance Advice (EPA) and subsequent measures like cavity wall insulation.
Texel Energy is a new cooperative established with a specific focus on the purchase, supply and production of green energy. The big advantage is that all the islanders (and also people who do not live on the island) can become members of the company. It started with an issue of 13,500 shares approximately equal to the total number of inhabitants at a cost of 50 euros each. Individuals or companies can only have a maximum of five shares and one vote. The cooperative's first green power supplier is the HVC waste-to-energy plant in Alkmaar (see next section) but as profits grow it intends to generate its own renewable energy on the island and/or to invest with other new companies intending to do so.
In 2001, the Foundation for a Sustainable Texel formed a sustainable building committee made up from representative island architects, joiners, construction companies, suppliers and engineers. This group besides providing information on various topics like heating systems, organising trade fairs and excursions has also been involved in two major projects. Firstly, construction of a model so-called dubo home 'The House' in Den Burg built to conserve energy, using environmentally friendly and sustainable materials. Secondly, a programme for the sustainable renovation of holiday homes on the island. Whilst few new holiday homes will permitted to be built on Texel, it is expected that half of the existing number of 3,600 will need to be renovated within the next decade. Most were built for use only in the summer and are poorly insulated. Nowadays they are increasingly used all year round and a whole list of recommendations covering energy, lighting, insulation, water saving, building materials, design as well as measures to explain their application and payback periods are available on the Foundation's website.
Waste Minimisation & Recycling
HVC is a modern and innovative company that provides all the waste management services for Texel. Household waste consists of 'green' and 'grey' waste, bulky household waste, small-scale chemical waste, electrical and electronic equipment and 'dry' components (old paper, textiles and glass). All these are collected separately and together with commercial waste taken to the dedicated transfer depot 'The Hamster' in Oudeschild. From there all combustible material is transported to their waste-to-energy plant in Alkmaar on the mainland for processing. Organic waste is transferred to one of their composting facilities. Another company Sortiva, a joint venture between HVC and GP Groot, recycles the bulky items, rubble, plastics, paper and glass, so that it can be reused for new products. Only waste that is unsuitable for recovery or recycling is incinerated and the heat used to generate 68 MW of electricity a year at Alkmaar is sufficient for a city of 130,000 residents. An independent bio-monitoring programme measures the effect of emissions on the quality of agricultural crops near this plant. Most residues released after the incineration process are reused. Upgraded bottom ash is used as level up material for road construction and as foundation material. The fly ash is used as filling material for asphalt concrete and other products such as salts are used as filler in old mines to prevent their collapse. Filter cake is landfilled in a controlled way until new means of utilization are found. Metals are sold to the steel industry as scrap and non-ferous metals are upgraded and sold as semi-finished products.
Water Management & Security
Texel is an attractive island for testing new policy for integrated water management. Apart from a drinking water line from the mainland, there is no external fresh water supply. Basically it forms its own watershed and is a small version of the water system on the mainland. Until recently many measures in the water system on the island were undertaken without due consideration to their impacts. Agriculture requires lower ground water tables, leading to intrusion of brackish water and diminishing of the fresh ground water lens below the surface of the island. Contrary, nature conservation prefers higher ground water levels and restoration of saline ground water at several natural areas. The high dikes of the island, a safeguard against seawater, also form a huge barrier for migrating fish. The De Cocksdorp syphon fish ladder has been an important step towards a sustainable water system with more opportunities for fish to migrate from the sea to the island water system.
Integrated water management learned that the way the water system on Texel is managed is not wise. Therefore the project Water for Texel Master Plan was started and one person that has been involved from the start is Ruud Kampf whose water web pages and associated scientific papers detail the constructed wetland at the Everstekoog sewage treatment plant; the spin-off 'kwekelbaarsjes system' for growing daphnia on effluent which can then be used as food for fish like sticklebacks that in turn are eaten by spoonbills on the island; and subsequent development of the 'Waterharmonica' concept into a new practical form of ecological engineering that has now been used in developing countries.
Extensive Agriculture & Organic Food Production
Texel differs from the other Wadden Sea islands in that the core of the island and its highest point Hooge Berg (15 m) consists of glacial till, deposited during the penultimate glaciation when large parts of the Netherlands were covered by ice. The present day appearance of Texel has been shaped partly by natural processes and partly by human action. The island increased in size because a sand dyke was built in the early 1600s between the original island and the dune island of Eijerland. The salt marsh to the east was surrounded by a dyke and reclaimed in 1835 (the Eijerland Polder).
Subsequently, in 1855, a new sand dyke was built further out towards the sea beyond the first dyke, but in 1858 that was breached by the sea in three places. One of these openings, the Slufter (meaning a tidal creek or sea inlet), still exists today. To the southwest of the island lie a series of curved sand banks with dunes and an adjoining sand flat, the Hors. In the 1930s the Hors expanded as the Onrust sand flat, which had formed in front of the entrance to the Marsdiep channel, moved to the east and came to rest against Texel. A process of accretion was also set in motion on the eastern side of the island and an area of salt marsh was formed, which was gradually raised by the deposition of sediments and eventually became dry land. These meadows make good agricultural land, and in 1847 they were enclosed and reclaimed to create the Prins Hendrik Polder.
The island's inhabitants used the landscape for agricultural activities. The old land was cultivated in small fields, whereas the new polders were divided up into regular parcels. Specific features of the former are the sheep houses (schapeboeten), ponds (kolken), old dyke openings (wielen) and turf walls (tuunwallen). The latter were built about a metre high and this method of field division was only used on the higher ground where the water level was too low for ditches and fences could not be built because of the lack of wood on the island.
In the early 1900s the newly established National Forest Service was granted 3000 hectares of land on Texel and planted part of this with trees. The great variety in the shape of the fields, woods and other plots of land that emerged over time on Texel has been greatly diminished by the ongoing processes of land consolidation and field enlargement initiated in the 1960s. For this reason agriculture is still the main economic base for the island and generates over 30 million euros in annual turnover according to PR Landbouw Texel.
The total land surface of the island is 16,000 ha, of which 9,000 ha is farmland and the remaining part is made up of nature reserves and villages. Grassland accounts for roughly half and the rest is arable land including orchards, vegetables and flower bulbs. There are 220 farms on the island with a balance of diverse types (see table below). Texel has been known as a sheep island for centuries. The Texelaar, the native sheep breed of Texel, is the most used breed in the Netherlands and has also been exported across the world. It is a meat breed, hardy and the lambs are fast growing. The pure wool of Texel sheep is especially well suited to sleep products because of its superior durability, insulation and moisture regulation.
|Farm types in Texel (2007)|
|Farm type||Dairy||Arable||Flower bulbs
With such a diverse range of natural products available it is not surprising that a local marketing association, Echt Texels Produkt has been formed. Most of the 43 farms, hotels, restaurants and other enterprises have their own websites but the association has a promotional video and publishes a comprehensive tourist guide and map with two cycle routes to follow round all their members .
An increasing number of visitors are also coming to Texel just for the cuisine thanks to chefs like Jef Schuur and his Michelin-starred restaurant in Den Hoorn. He is inspired by the local produce like Texel lamb which has a special smooth, salty taste because the grass in the pastures is flavoured by the sea air. Whether it is sheep's cheese, asparagus, herbal liquors, the prize beer or freshly caught fish and shrimps, Texel has plenty of culinary delights to offer. It's all quality food with no added preservatives and has good market penetration in the fashionable shops of Den Berg and local B&Bs.
Texel products also form part of the regional brand 'Wadden gold' that was created in 2003 by the Waddengroep Foundation using 'honestly enjoying' as a slogan. It offers jams, syrups, wines and juices made from cranberries, sea buckthorns, aronia and other berries as well as mustard, honey, vinegar and other delicatessen items. Skin care products use Wadden salt and organically grown herbs and flowers.
In the 1990s Dutch farmers created environmental co-operatives that are intermediary organisations between themselves and the Government as regards wildlife and landscape questions. These co-ops first signed agreements with the Government on behalf of farmers, with whom they then concluded private contracts. Despite the efficiency of these private schemes in managing wildlife and landscape collectively and on increasing farmers' participation, they were not in line with EC regulations. They have been kept in place but the way they are administered has changed. Before 2004, co-ops received the financial compensation directly and then paid farmers according to their wildlife and landscape management achievements. Since 2004, farmers are paid by the Government and give a portion of this subsidy to the co-op and then get money back depending on their management and environmental results.
De Lieuw is the environmental co-operative for Texel and financed mainly by the Dutch government through agri-environment schemes. For each contracted hectare, a payment is allocated to De Lieuw. In 2007 some 4,500 ha were under contract and that was approximately half of the agricultural area of the island. Measures focus essentially on the protection of meadow birds with monitoring carried out by De Lieuw as a scheme requirement. Farmers participate in nest counts and ditch vegetation surveys. All biological records and monitoring results are entered into a GIS.
Other projects undertaken by De Lieuw include the restoration of characteristic landscape elements such as tuunwallen in Den Hoorn, the construction of wider bank margins alongside ditches to improve their environmental value, the improvement of water management in the Eijerland Polder, farm visits, provision of trail guides and other interpretive materials. The organisation also took part in the European Island Farm Landscapes transnational project funded under the EC Leader programme and this report provides a useful review and assessment of agri-environment schemes on biodiversity and farming landscapes for three of the island partners including Texel.
The ferry service between Texel and Den Helder on the mainland is run by TESO. This company was founded in 1907 as an initiative of Dr A Wagemaker and is island owned. Due to the increasing numbers of cars, TESO now operate two double deck ferries with a roll-on-roll-off system. The harbours at both ends are designed to transport a capacity of 290 vehicles and 1750 passengers on each ferry as efficiently as possible. The company puts on extra crossings at peak periods. TESO is claiming to be the first shipping company in the world to make use of environmentally benign Gas To Liquids (GTL) diesel-type fuel. Since 2007, an engine in one of their ferries has been running on this synthetic fuel that produces lower harmful local emissions than standard diesel and is biodegradable.
Partly at the initiative of the Foundation for a Sustainable Texel, various studies have been undertaken on making transportation more durable. The growing number of cars on the island increasingly causes problems (long waiting hours for the ferry, shortage of parking spaces and overcrowded roads). The aim was not to forbid use of the car altogether but rather to make alternatives so attractive that tourist and Texelaar alike will leave their car at home more often. A business plan was drawn up in 2002 that resulted in some tangible measures including the establishment of the TEMO: Texels Own Mobility Organization.
TEMO worked with several manufacturers in producing an innovative bicycle. This bike would be supplied with an electrical fuel cell thus making it easier to cycle greater distances with less effort on Texel assuming there were sufficient loading stations, grid connected or stand alone, situated around the 135 km of dedicated bike paths. The bike would be an attractive means of transportation, particularly for elderly people and those who are less mobile. A bike rack suitable for hanging onto the back of buses and taxis was also developed. In this way, the rental shops could offer a service whereby cyclists can be picked up by a bus or taxi, for whatever reason e.g. bad weather or strong headwinds. Tourists would then be more likely to choose cycling as a mode of transport when assured of getting back home. In the late summer of 2004, an experiment was held on Texel with bicycle road assistance. A bus was driven around the island providing assistance to cycling tourists as well as local residents.
Sustainable Tourism & Niche Marketing
The tourist information centre (VVV) in Den Berg has a copious number of brochures and guides available about the island especially for the most popular leisure pursuits of cycling, walking and bird watching. The imposing red lighthouse at the northern point of Texel isn't yet open to visitors but a tandem parachute jump can be organised from the small airport to provide that sought-after birds-eye view. For those who rather keep two feet on the ground there is a 9-hole golf course in the dunes.
Texel has approximately 30 km of sand beach and to make sure that everybody is able to find enough space, the local council has divided it into different zones some of which are flagged and patrolled by lifeguards in summer for the safety of visitors. Examples of the activities which are controlled are dog walking, swimming, nude sunbathing, building sandcastles, surfing, canoeing, sailing, kiting, kite surfing and horseback riding.
In 2002, a pilot project 'Product-orientated environment' PMZ initiated by the Foundation for Sustainable Texel stalled but at least seven local tourism companies remained in the national eco-label scheme 'Milieubarometer' which involved meeting different environmental requirements to achieve bronze, silver or gold status. This in turn has been superceded for the tourism sector and become Green Key whereby leisure organisations have to fulfil various technical, management and communication criteria as well as receive regular onsite checks to achieve the award. However, it would appear the scheme has become so inflexible with formal conditions and paperwork, not to mention additional expense, most local operators have withdrawn from it. A Milieubarometer, or the English-language version Envirometer, is still a successful and well used environmental monitoring tool for SMEs.
Biodiversity & Protected Areas
Approximately a third of the island is protected. Duinen Van Texel is one of the twenty Dutch National Parks and was designated by the Minister of Nature in 2002 for its diverse avian population. Every year, some 80 species of birds breed here, among which the spoonbill, little tern and short-eared owl are some of the rarest. The Vogelwerkgroep Texel undertakes surveys, nest box checks, counts and ringing of birds in conjunction with the park authorities. The park covers an area of 4,300 ha and includes De Slufter, a salt marsh, and De Hors, a large sandbank.
Staatsbosbeheer together with the Ministry of Defence manage the park and planting marram grass has been a recurrent task in order to fight sand drifting in the dunes. Grazing animals are also used to prevent the overgrowth of vegetation, but agricultural activities are limited. Hiking and bicycle trails, bridle paths, lookout points, picnic and barbeque places and other facilities are also maintained by the National Forest Service, making it possible to enjoy the wealth of flora and fauna.
Ecomare is the information centre for the national park that has a series of good exhibition halls, sea aquarium, a bird and seal sanctuary and an extensive network of paths in the dunes. Rangers offer guided excursion tours throughout the year.
Natuurmonumenten is an independent association whose aim is to protect nature, landscape and historical culture. It purchases land to manage with conservation objectives and owns three areas on Texel: Hoge Berge, Lage Land and De Schorren.
In addition to the statutory protection of a number of nature areas, the Netherlands is also working on the National Ecological Network (NEN) to be completed by 2018. Whilst the EC Birds and Habitats Directives focus on the protection of species and specific landscape types, the NEN concentrates on the creation of a green buffer with better land use and environmental conditions for habitats and wildlife.
The largest Dutch nature reserve is the Wadden Sea and InterWad was established in 1997 as the central location for digital information for this recently designated (June 2009) World Heritage Site. It comes under the protection of three governments (The Netherlands, Germany and Denmark) and there is a plethora of different national and regional bodies all seemingly with different functions for this vast intertidal wetland as can be seen from list of partners on front pages of their websites.
The Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ) is located on Texel. Founded in 1876, NIOZ employs around 220 people and multidisciplinary interdepartmental co-operation is regarded as one of its main strengths. Research is carried out by five scientific departments and organised under five themes including the Wadden and shelf sea systems. Together with a number of other research institutes in the Netherlands and Belgium, NIOZ maintains the educational website 'Sea on Screen' which contains information for a broad audience about the North Sea and soon also about the Wadden Sea and the Delta area.
Integrated Development Planning
In 2000 the Texel tourist office (VVV) initiated a participatory planning process to discuss the opportunities for future development of the island called 'Texel 2030'. Dutch consultants for the ISLA project undertook a study into 'stakeholder participation in island settings' and looked at the Texel case as an alternative model, which they considered 'an interesting example because it is in fact triggered by an earlier top-down, regulatory policy measure which is still undisputed: namely the maximum number of beds that was imposed in 1974. The implementation of this 'ceiling' was in fact the motivation to start a discussion on tourism development and to search for alternative, sustainable ways of growth: not quantity but quality based. As the 'ceiling' was introduced at an early stage, when there was still considerable room for development, it was generally accepted and there was plenty of time to become an established, non-disputed and non-negotiable figure. All stakeholders on the island have accepted and still accept the ceiling. Following this top-down regulatory instrument, now social instruments are used to develop a strategy and concrete activities to achieve sustainable development. This method of working has made Texel one of the Dutch forerunners in the field of sustainable development.
"The results of the process were turned into a new scenario called 'Texel Unique Island', which pictures an 'ideal' situation which new policies and decisions are supposed to be based. However, the final product of the scenario process was not perceived as successful by all actors on the island. Both the farmers and Ten for Texel (a local action group) questioned the results. They separately submitted a report to the Municipality in which the results of Texel 2030 were questioned. The municipality eventually had to take the reports of the Texel 2030 process, as well as the reports of the farmers and Ten for Texel seriously and contracted a consultant from the mainland to make a new vision. This vision was published in 2002, once more after an extensive process of consultation, meetings and discussion."
The sustainable development of tourism on the island, its relationship with other sectors of the economy against and the wider socio-political background of the local community has been further analysed in a paper 'The Margins of Texel' and a book 'Tourismscapes' by the same author. Both refer to the Foundation for a Sustainable Texel "as continuing to a certain extent with the participatory elements in the Texel 2030 process. First acting as the Workgroup for Sustainable Tourism, it later developed into a Foundation looking at the sustainability of the entire island. It has implemented projects, often innovative covering a wide range of fields but those which have been successful tend to be the ones that do not really 'hurt' anybody. Plans such as placing wind turbines, avoiding the use of cars (as opposed to stimulating the use of bikes) and so on, are generally stuck in the study-phase. Nevertheless, their results are impressive and many islanders are now proud of the fact that the island is a forerunner in sustainability."
Climate Change Mitigation & Adaptation Measures
The new Dutch Institute for Delta Technology (Deltares) was established in 2008. Amongst their projects is the smart dike 'IJkdijk' which is a unique international test facility where the aim is to develop smart levees, and to integrate and validate dike and sensor technology. It makes it possible to provide efficient decision support for the optimisation of disaster response, and the management and maintenance of water systems.
Throughout the world, the most densely populated areas are found in deltas and along coastlines, lakes and rivers. As these areas are extremely valuable in economic terms and are continuing to develop, the risk of flooding here needs to be low. In many of these areas, the ground surface is subsiding due to water extraction, sediment settlement, or other geological processes. At the same time, climate change is leading to more extreme weather conditions and rising sea levels. These changing conditions mean that high water levels will occur more frequently and will become more extreme. This will lead to major economic damage and a greater risk of loss of life. New Dutch technology from Deltares will soon make it possible to calculate dike and levee strength almost automatically, anywhere in the world. Weak spots can be traced up to 100 times faster, reducing the risk of flooding.
Marcel Drenth and Ineke Hin, De Lieuw
Nienke Bloksma, Foundation for Sustainable Texel
Petra Schut, Texel Energy
Roel Struick, Municipality of Texel
Marga and Berend Klif 1