GOUDA/VENICE - Sinking Cities is a long-term multimedia project exploring what it means to live in sinking cities, and what is the impact of subsidence on the inhabitants of Gouda and Venice. 

According to scientists, land subsidence is one of the most underrated threats to our future, ‘a secret killer’. In many cities worldwide the soil is sinking faster than sea levels are rising. 

Due to urbanization, climate change and inappropriate intervention, soils are even sinking faster than expected. Despite the seriousness of this threat, only a limited number of people, politicians and concerned citizens, are aware of what is going on.

‘Sinking Cities Gouda & Venice’ investigates the impact of subsidence on the inhabitants of Gouda and Venice. Iconic cities with a significant cultural and historical value, the birthplace of the famous Gouda cheese and Venice ranked many times most beautiful city in the world. Does subsidence combined with climate change, provoke the end of these cities as we know them? What does it mean to live in a place that is sinking beneath your feet? Can the tide be turned? What are the solutions? Who are the pioneers leading this?


Land subsidence might be a natural phenomenon, but in Venice, it’s the decision of men that put the city in a grave situation of vulnerability. From deeper bridges to allowing cruise tours, to expensive marble pushing ancient buildings down, the deadly combination of subsidence and sea level rise might destroy the city as we know it. Is the city lost to water and tourists?


The city of Gouda and the surrounding polders are sinking. Will the typical Dutch landscape with its cows, mills and historic cities below sea level disappear? ‘For one of the lowest-lying countries in the world, subsidence is the worst-case scenario.’

Exhibition Sinking Cities Gouda 
On 9 March, the Sinking Cities Gouda exhibition opened at the Watersnoodmuseum in Zeeland. It is a 'journalistic exhibition', using photography, video, text and data to draw attention to the subject of subsidence. Although the exhibition focuses on the Dutch city of Gouda, it makes clear that it is about a bigger story about the future of the Netherlands. Land subsidence touches on major social issues and is a global issue. The exhibition also briefly shows other cities in the project: Jakarta, Venice and Mexico City.   

Trailer exhibition Sinking Cities, Gouda (Watersnoodmuseum) 

Team members

Cynthia Boll

Cynthia Boll is a Dutch photographer and documentary filmmaker.

Cynthia Boll

Stephanie Bakker

Stephanie Bakker is a Dutch journalist/writer/producer.

Stephanie Bakker

Giada Santana

Giada Santana is an Italian Dominican freelance journalist based in Paris.

Giada Santana
€40.000 granted on 30/11/2022


  • Gouda Zinkt, pg 64-79, National Geographic Netherlands, 05/05/2023.




need resources for your own investigative story?

Journalismfund Europe's flexible grants programmes enable journalists to produce relevant public interest stories with a European mind-set from international, national, and regional perspectives.


support independent cross-border investigative journalism

We rely on your support to continue the work that we do. Make a gift of any amount today.