Latin America is growing increasingly important for the Dutch water sector. Special Envoy for International Water Affairs, Henk Ovink, spent a few days in Chile last week with people from the embassy, the Netherlands Enterprise Agency, the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management, NWP and Deltares, to reinforce existing ties and explore how both countries can collaborate in the future. The ambition is there, and there's certainly a need for Dutch expertise, he explains in his blog.
"The Netherlands and Chile have collaborated in water-related activities for quite a while. We wanted to see how we could strengthen the bilateral relationship with respect to water-related activities, with the new government. So, the idea was to start by talking about the mutual ambitions. However, the process went quicker than anticipated. At the airport, I hastily had to change into my business suit, for a meeting with Minister Moreno of Social Development who had made time especially for us. He was very well prepared for the meeting, knew what we had to offer and showed commitment. I could not have asked for a better, more productive start.
The social agenda plays a continuous role in themes like agriculture, mining and urban development, as does climate change. I clearly established the link to this agenda in the opening of the photo exhibition 'Where will we go' by Kadir van Lohuizen, on the rising sea water levels."
"The social agenda involves matters like the position of the indigenous population in Araucania, a large region in the south of Chile. Large-scale forestry and intensive farming have escalated the tensions there regarding the division of the available water resources, not to mention climate change. In the past, the north was dry, and the south was wet, but, the latter is no longer the case. Using water in a more sustainable manner can really be an important leverage in avoiding such tensions.
For ‘Valuing Water’, the Netherlands' initiative in the High Level Panel on Water, we need partners and example projects to further reinforce that initiative, and Minister Moreno wants to implement this approach in Araucania. During a workshop with the Ministry of Economic Affairs and its Innovation Board, we also discussed the ideas behind Rebuild by Design. Chile wants to get started with this, but will first do substantial research in that respect. In other words, to be continued."
"During the mission, the parties paid considerable attention to a Partners for Water project which started in Chile last year: 'GIRAGUA – integrated management and efficient use of water resources in the Coquimbo region'. Deltares, Arcadis, Leaf and IHE Delft will draw up an integrated water management plan for the Elqui river basin. In La Serena, during a workshop with Deltares and local and regional stakeholders, we discussed the project's results and the follow-up. The approach might be implemented in other parts of the country too, via a peer-to-peer learning process and an open source approach.
In that context, the discussion with Oscar Cristi, who is basically the top official when it comes to water-related activities, was also important. With him, we were able to cut right to the chase: what will we be doing together in practice? He'd like to use Dutch expertise and innovations to improve the management of the entire surface and groundwater system. An important priority is to make groundwater more sustainable, including recharging aquifers."
"In Chile, I had the opportunity to give the keynote speech during the annual meeting at Acción Empresas, the counterpart of the World Business Council on Sustainable Development. Climate change adaptation was the central theme. There, I once again clearly conveyed the Dutch message: water connects, but only if you do it together. During lunch, we wasted no time talking to a few of the largest companies about what they can do and what they need to be able to do it. I showed them that water can threaten their continuity as a business and that they can change from a water user to a water supplier."
"In Chile, the main idea that we shared back and forth was that one must implement changes fast: set up pilots, see what happens in reality, learn and then scale up. Because, if you first work everything out to the last detail, you'll be too late. And, when you test, do it in a flexible and adaptive way, so you can fine-tune along the way. I think the mission has contributed to the possibility of taking the Dutch-Chilean collaboration to the next level. The political commitment is serious, and they have given us the green light."
After his mission to Chile, Henk Ovink flew to Lima, Peru, at the government's request, to follow up on his visit last year and to provide advice for the rebuilding after the flooding. He also discussed the collaboration in the High Level Panel on Water with a Valuing Water-pilot.
Chile is one of the countries included in the Partners for Water programme, ran by the Netherlands Enterprise Agency and NWP. For more information about the Partners for Water programme and for inspiration for projects, visit partnersvoorwater.nl. For more information about Chile, you can contact Edilberto Baquero from NWP, firstname.lastname@example.org.