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News | 8 November 2018

Blog: Argentina counts on Dutch support to take on huge water challenges

The conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina
The Netherlands and Argentina have engaged in a very intensive cooperation in a wide variety of water-related fields. During the Binational Water Conference on 29 and 30 October in Buenos Aires, both countries agreed on exciting future steps. On the Dutch side, the event was part of and supported by the Partners for Water Programme. In his blog Marc Hasselaar, Deputy Head of Mission at the Royal Dutch Embassy in Buenos Aires, looks back on two successful days. And he foresees great opportunities for the Dutch water sector in the years to come.

Climate change

"You don’t have to convince the Argentines of climate change. In recent years, there has often been either far too little or far too much rain, resulting in either enormous drought or heavy flooding. This is a serious threat, because agriculture is the country’s most important economic sector. The country produces enough food for 400 million people, while the population of Argentina is only 43 million. And there is still room for substantial improvements which will allow the country to produce enough food for at least 600 million people."

Bilateral water MoU

"In 2016, Argentina launched a national water plan with a total budget of USD 44 billion. Half the budget is being invested in drinking water and sanitation, and the rest in climate adaptation (including water governance), production/irrigation and biomass transformation. President Macri, who came to power in December 2015 amidst huge inundations, immediately answered the calls on social media: he requested the Netherlands to help solve the water issues. An important catalyst was Macri’s state visit in March 2017 to the Netherlands. The occasion was marked by the signing of a binational Memorandum of Understanding for Water that included a series of partial agreements. The MoU was signed, in the presence of His Majesty King Willem-Alexander and Her Majesty Queen Máxima, by the Argentinian Vice Minister of Infrastructure and Water Policy, Pablo Bereciartua, and the Dutch Special Envoy for Water Affairs, Henk Ovink. Pablo Bereciartua and Henk Ovink also co-hosted the recent conference on 29 and 30 October. Pablo Bereciartua studied at TU Delft and knows exactly what the Netherlands water sector has to offer. Read also the blog of Henk Ovink about the conference on the website of the Dutch Government."

Results of Dutch-Argentinian feasibility studies

"At the conference, the results of the joint Dutch-Argentinian feasibility studies on two strategic projects were presented. These projects are the Sustainable Development of the Paraná river delta, and the construction of an inland waterway through the Pampa Humeda region. The next steps for the two strategic projects were also discussed at the conference. In the case of the Paraná river delta, the feasibility study showed that while further research is needed in the short term, projects in areas such as sustainable water management will be established. As Henk Ovink again emphasised: “without a plan no projects, but without projects no plan”. In the case of the Pampa Humeda region, the inland waterway through the Pampa canal will be assessed in a broader, more holistic context. It will not be looked at in terms of a single fluvial transport corridor with drainage capacity, but as part of a wider plan that includes economic development along the canal, multimodal transport nodes and the lifeline of an irrigation system."

Water quality and water governance

"The other two central themes at the conference were water quality – drinking water as well as industrial waste water – and water governance. In terms of drinking water, KWR and the drinking water company of Buenos Aires will do a pilot to test the removal of arsenic from drinking water. Arsenic occurs naturally in Argentina and is a big problem. Entities from both countries also discussed projects that reduce the energy used in water purification, clean industrial waste water and examine the potential of reusing waste water treatment residue."

'Polderen'

"And as far as governance is concerned, President Macri has expressed an interest in replacing the confrontational, zero-sum approach from the past with more inclusive ways of getting things done that includes stakeholder participation. This was the stance taken in Dutch polders and the word polderen is becoming widely known in Argentina. It is starting to be used both in the sense of fostering social dialogue as well as in its original meaning of integrated water management. The Dutch water authorities and the water authority of the Province of Buenos Aires are already collaborating on a water management and institutional capacity building project in the municipality of General Lavalle. This project is likely to provide a blueprint for the rest of Argentina."

'A snowball effect'

"The bilateral water MoU has led to concrete cooperation, mainly on integrated water resources management, water governance, industrial waste water treatment and drinking water supply and sanitation. This forms a solid base for intensive involvement of Dutch research institutes in this sector as well as contracts for private companies. Dutch institutes and consultants have been closely involved from the start and there is an explicit request from Argentina that they remain on board in the future. All water-related agreements signed around the state visit in 2017 are now in progress. This is something to be proud of! The work is also leading to all sorts of follow-up questions and the enthusiasm and concrete cooperation are contagious. A snowball effect like this is wonderful!"
 

Contact

A Delta team was created for Argentina as new country in the Partners for Water Programme. In close collaboration with the Embassy in Buenos Aires, water issues in Argentina are supported and facilitated by teams from the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water, the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO.nl) and Netherlands Water Partnership (NWP). For more information, please check the Country Update or contact NWP’s Audrey Legat at a.legat@nwp.nl