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© 1999-2024, René G.A. Ros
Last modified: 7/5/2024 (dmy)

The Defence Line - Civil usage

After the Second World War, the requirement for permanent defence works was diminished. This meant the end of the Defence Line and for decades the forts were used as a storage depot and guarded only by a watchman who, together with his family, lived in a watchman's house.

Map 1910 (GIF, 18 Kb)

Map 1995 (GIF, 18 Kb)

Two maps from 1910 and 1995 with the forts, inundations and the expanded built areas. (From: Waterlijn)

The location of the Defence Line is now inhabited by more than 1.7 million people. Of this, some 524,000 are living in the defence perimeter itself and about 306,000 of these are living in the inundation areas.
Most of the forts and the other works are now the property of government departments. When the Ministry of Defence ended the use of the forts (last ones in 1988), most of the forts were transferred to the Ministry of Finance, the Crown Property Office. This office sold the forts to other government departments and, in some cases, to companies and private buyers.

Almost all of the forts and surroundings are considered official monuments. The green strip of inundation and defence circles is arranged as a recreation spot, with bicycle routes and nature areas. The open landscape is part of the Defence Line and is preserved as well as possible.
The complete Defence Line is on the UNESCO World Heritage List, which means that it is unique in the world and stands on an equal footing with, say, the Great Wall of China. The 17th-century canal ring area of Amsterdam inside the Singelgracht, the wet moat of the last city wall, is also inscribed since 2010.

One of the reasons the Defence Line is currently much appreciated as a monument, is not just because it is on the World Heritage List and is irreplaceable as a historic cultural monument but because the natural value of the Defence Line is considerable. Located on the edge of, sometimes even in, urban areas, the Defence Line is an oasis of tranquillity.
Because of the "monument" status, only those uses which don't result in a radical change of the monument are permitted. It is not solely the forts that need protecting, but all parts of the Defence Line. The parts of the Defence Line that were constructed over the course of time and still exist are as follows:

The Kringenwet (Circle Law) played a major role in the conservation of the direct surroundings of the forts. This law specified several circles around defensive works and strongly limited what could be built in these circles. In this way, the Defence Line influenced town and country zoning for years.

Only a small number of forts are open to the public, but a reasonable part can be seen very well from the public road. Many of the dikes and waterworks are still functioning to this day and are frequently accessible.
Several organisations which own or use premises on the Line are doing their bit towards its conservation. A good example is the Pampus Foundation who, by opening Fort along Pampus to the public, are trying to restore the fort and inform the visitors about the Defence Line and the mystic fort island.

This website is provided by private experts and is not a government site.
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Defence Line of Amsterdam. A city wall of water.
UNESCO Werelderfgoed sinds 1996
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'Introduction to the Defence Line of Amsterdam' is a interactive ebook about the Defence Line of Amsterdam.