Arcadis is helping 44 Polish cities with more than 100,000 residents to prepare for climate change. The organisation aims to achieve this by working as part of a consortium that includes several Polish government institutes. This concrete Dutch involvement in 'City Adaptation Plans' – the first initiative on this scale in Europe – is a perfect fit for the Dutch focus on water and on 'climate proofing' urban deltas around the world.
David Raalten, the design and consultancy firm’s European Director of Water Management, explains why this is such a great assignment and discusses Arcadis’ strategy for this project and how NWP also made a key contribution.
"Around 30% of the Polish population lives in those cities, and they are responsible for half the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The 'Plans for Adaptation to Climate Change in Urban Areas' are designed to make cities more resilient, to put them in a stronger position to face climate change.
There are a great many steps involved in the process of winning a project like this. Myself, I’d compare it with a successful attack in a football match. You look at what’s the best action for you to take: you can build up carefully from behind, but sometimes you’ll also send the ball wide and then rush along the wings to end with an unerring right foot. To do that you need a team that offers the right mix of qualities."
"We needed a team like that to work on this project, too. First of all, we really value our Polish presence, with our own offices and Polish professionals who receive training from the Netherlands. That’s actually part of Arcadis Poland’s contract. The people at the Environment Ministry who issued the tender know us well. They know what we can do, and they can see that we were already working with the institutes with which we have since formed the consortium. Two years ago we won the contract to create a high-water protection plan for the Tuga river. That project is an important milestone in a track record that goes back many years. NWP had an important role to play in that process. As long ago as 2015, NWP organised an inbound mission that involved a Polish delegation of high-level civil servants from the Environment Ministry travelling to the Netherlands to discuss climate change adaptation, to view concrete projects and to visit businesses. The delegation was also present later that year for the Amsterdam International Water Week, where they joined forces with Arcadis to take part in a session about climate change adaptation. A third opportunity to reinforce our network came with the 'Adaptation Futures 2016' conference held in Rotterdam in May of last year, where NWP organised a 'cities and business match' and which was attended by both civil servants and Polish mayors with whom we have already made plans for future meetings. NWP was a constant source of help in building contacts with the right people, which raised our profile. Then you have more to offer than a thorough technical proposal and a collection of impressive CVs; you can make a more accurate assessment of the decision makers."
"Of course this is a fantastic project, in the first place because it involves 44 cities at the same time – you won’t see that anywhere else in the world. And it also relates to climate change adaptation, which is currently a top priority.
Our strategy to tackle this challenge involves what we call our 'resilience pathway'. In effect, this approach means that we don’t see the issue as a technical problem requiring a technical solution. We start at the beginning, by drawing up a very precise outline of the current state of a city’s economic and social development, their plans and ambitions, where they want to build and the state of the infrastructure.
This is by no means a one-size-fits-all approach: you have to find a package of solutions that fits each individual city perfectly. And of course those plans must be achievable, both in terms of regulation and as regards financing. You can do this in a variety of ways, for instance with extensive business cases, by engaging commercial developers and private investors, and by finding a way to dovetail with urban development plans."
"We’ll do it the Polish way, embedded in the local context. You can’t expect to do that with only Dutch people – you have to bridge a big cultural divide, starting with the language barrier. Probably the most important challenge is to encourage the local authorities themselves to be enthusiastic about the plans, as this is a national initiative that has yet to be universally embraced. Really, what we want to achieve is that someone like the mayor of Krakow says to our consortium: “You clearly understand what our city needs. I want to get started on these plans right away.” We’ve scored a great goal, but we won’t have won the match until we’ve achieved that reaction."
NWP’s efforts regarding water and cities and activities in Poland are supported through the programme 'Partners for Water 2016–2021'.
If you would like to know more about the topic of water and cities, and for more information about doing business in Poland in general, please get in touch with Edyta Wisniewska, Coordinator for Resilient Cities and Europe at the NWP.
If you would like to know more about Arcadis’ strategy in Poland, please contact David van Raalten.