Netherlands Embassy and Consulates, China

Water collaboration between the Netherlands and China

For 15 years now Rijkswaterstaat and China have been working on water management. Gerard de Vries has been working on this Sino-Dutch water collaboration as programme manager Rijkswaterstraat collaboration the Netherlands - China since 2009. The Embassy interviewed him about the lessons and opportunities on the water collaboration between the Netherlands and China.

According to De Vries, Chinese cities generally suffer from a lack of water. Beijing on its own already lacks several million cubic meters per year. At the same time many Chinese cities have to cope with floods caused by large river discharges and heavy rainfall. Technically it is possible to build water basins and pump mechanisms, but how do you do that on China’s enormous scale?

“In the Netherlands we have focused for a long time on coastal defense and water management for the more rural areas, but in recent years we have made the step to green urbanization. Green urbanization involves not just the defensibility and livability related to water management, but also the mobility in urban areas. The concept of green urbanization is one of the major themes of the collaboration between the Netherlands and China.”

“The recent water collaboration between China and The Netherlands was initiated because Rijkswaterstaat had a need for knowledge partners with countries outside of Europe. China is known as a country which is known for many challenges on water management for which traditional techniques often fall short. The Chinese willingness to try out innovations on a large scale is very impressive. At the same time, the Chinese have a large amount of trust in the knowledge of the Dutch water sector. Many Chinese water experts have been educated in the Netherlands. Many alumni of UNESCO-IHE and graduates of PhD programmes of the Delft University of Technology and the University of Twente are now working for the Chinese ministry of Water Resources.”

“Furthermore the Netherlands has a broad experience with building and maintaining dams and dykes, while China has extensive knowledge related to large barrages and water basins. It is very interesting to exchange the cross-overs in technology and safety in this field, and trying out new technologies.”

“An innovative example of such a technique is developed by a Dutch company called Cytobuoy, which measures water contamination which has been caused by blue-green algae. People can get very sick by drinking blue-green algae. In the past, someone had to take a little boat up in the lake to take a water sample and bring it back to the laboratory. Using this newly developed technique you can measure the composition of the algae every 10 minutes and see its development. We are going to test this technique in the Ijsselmeer in the Netherlands and the Tai lake near Shanghai. These lakes are very comparable in size and depth, which makes it easy to exchange and compare the results. By testing this technique in the Netherlands and China, we strengthen the scientific basis for its wide-spread implementation. Implementing it in Tai lake will mean a decrease of public health risks and enables business to work on a more efficient basis with limited water supplies.”