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More About The Netherlands







About The Netherlands (Holland)
Netherlands, also known unofficially as Holland, country in northwestern Europe, west of Germany and north of Belgium. The Netherlands Antilles and Aruba, islands in the Caribbean Sea, are part of the Netherlands. The European portion of the Netherlands has a total area of 41,526 sq km (16,033 sq mi). The capital and largest city is Amsterdam.
Land and Resources
The Netherlands is a low-lying country, about half of which is below sea level. The coastline consists mostly of dunes, behind which lies the land below sea level, protected from flooding by a systems of dikes, dams, and locks. It iskept dry by continuous mechanical pumping. The country's largest lake, the IJsselmeer, is an artificial lake created as part of a continuing project to reclaim land from the sea. Major rivers include the Rhine, the Maas, and the Schelde, which form a delta covering much of the country and provide shipping access to the interior of Europe. The Netherlands has a temperate maritime climate. Because land is scarce and fully exploited, areas of natural vegetation are limited. The remnants of forests are carefully managed. Grasses and heather provide habitats for rabbits, but larger wildlife has disappeared.

Population

With a population of 15,649,729 (1997 estimate), the Netherlands is one of the world's most densely populated countries. Some 89 percent of the people live in urban areas. The great majority of inhabitants are Dutch, but the Frisians constitute a distinct cultural and linguistic group. Similarly, the official language is Dutch, but Frisian is also spoken. Roman Catholics constitute about 33 percent and Protestants 23 percent of the population; about 39 percent of the people are not church members.

Education and Cultural Activity

About one-third of schools are public; about two-thirds are nonpublic, mainly operated by religious institutions. Both are publicly financed. Attendance is compulsory from ages 5 to 16.

Economy

Trade is an essential part of the economy. Goods flow into the ports of Rotterdam and Amsterdam, where canals and rivers provide easy access to the interior of Europe. Industrial production was relatively unimportant until the development of chemical and electronics industries after World War II (1939-1945). After the war, Rotterdam became a leading center for refining petroleum, and in recent decades the Netherlands has become the world's fifth largest exporter of natural gas. Despite the poor soil of the Netherlands, family farms are a major generator of exports. The Dutch currency is the guilder (1.84 guilders equal U.S.$1;1998).