The Netherlands government has announced a new global initiative to help countries with water-related issues. The announcement came during the United Nations Secretary General Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation meeting, held on the sidelines of Singapore International Water Week (SIWW), which started June 1.
“We can never take our safety, security and prosperity for granted. We can never afford to relax our efforts,” Dutch Minister for Infrastructure and the Environment Melanie Schultz van Haegen said during the meeting. “What’s more, we strongly believe that safety, security and prosperity shouldn’t just be a national affair. It is our responsibility to join hands and to actively work towards a world where water works for us and not against us. A world that is safer and more prosperous, not despite water, but because of it.”
The initiative will establish a global coalition of partners that will work together to focus on preventive action, long-term solutions, good governance and innovative financing, according to a Dutch government release.
The partnership will resemble the “Dutch Risk Reduction Team,” a team of water experts who are on standby to advise decision-makers on urgent water issues like floods and polluted drinking water, and to prevent or rebuild after a disaster.
“Until recently, the Netherlands too chose a reactive approach: when hit by a flood, we built bigger and stronger dikes, new dams, better pumps and reclaimed new land,” Schultz van Haegen said. But “the consequences of water-related disasters have grown so big, that we can’t afford to react to them. The prevention of disaster is more cost-effective --not to mention the number of lives saved.”
The minister also called for water to be included in the UN’s post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals, saying, “Everybody wants to be safe from flooding, whether it is caused by rising sea levels or monsoon rains. We all need clean drinking water. And we all want to live in a country with a thriving and innovative economy. Only be working together internationally, will we be able to make a difference.”
SIWW is part of tripartite conference week that also includes the World Cities Summit (WCS) and the CleanEnviro Summit Singapore (CESS). A joint opening ceremony, led by Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, was held on June 1, and attended by more than 3,000 people.
This year, SIWW has launched a new social media initiative, #SIWWPledge, which “aims to leverage the power and influence of social media to rally the global community towards the water cause,” according to a SIWW statement.
“Through #SIWWPledge, we want to do our part to rally the global community towards finding sustainable water and sanitation solutions for the world,” said Maurice Neo, Managing Director of SIWW. “We hope to leverage the power of social media to create greater awareness of water issues amongst the public and steer action towards finding sustainable water solutions.”
Participants in the conference are asked to write a message or pledge to be uploaded with their picture to www.campaign.com/siwwpledge. Members of the public can also go to the site and make a pledge.
Every pledge will be matched with a $S1 (about $0.80 USD) contribution by the campaign’s sponsors, which include Black & Veatch, CDM Smith, Keppel Corporation, PWN Technologies, Sembcorp Industries Ltd, Suez Environnement and Veolia Water Technologies and Solutions (SEA) Pte Ltd. The money will go to Water.org, an international charity co-founded by Gary White and Matt Damon that brings safe water and sanitation to the developing world.
"Access to water isn’t an end in itself. Access to water is access to education, access to work, access - above all -- to the kind of future we want for our own families, and all the members of our human family," said Matt Damon, co-founder of Water.org.
Several deals were also announced in the first two days of the conference. Singapore’s national water agency, PUB, has signed a memorandum of understanding with Evoqua Water Technologies to further develop electrochemical desalination technology. Beijing Enterprises Water Group Limited launched its international headquarters in Singapore on the opening day of SIWW.
Photo: Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Hsien Loong, opens the World Cities Summit, Singapore International Water Week and CleanEnviro Summit Singapore 2014. Photo credit: World Cities Summit Singapore, Singapore International Water Week and CleanEnviro Summit Singapore 2014.