Last week, government officials and specialists from Albania, Georgia, Ghana, Liberia and Romania came to the Netherlands for a World Bank study tour on nature-based solutions organised by the Netherlands Water Partnership. One of the participants was Ivane Vashakmadze, Tourism Expert and World Bank Consultant from Georgia. In his blog, he shares his experiences and his lessons learnt on nature-based solutions.
'We are currently working on the Georgia National Action Plan for Adapting to Climate Change Impacts in the Black Sea Coastal Zone. This region is prone to sea level rise and increased occurrence and severity of storms combined with sediment hunger. This leads to coastal erosion and loss of beaches, and threatens shoreline settlements and infrastructure. Many coastal settlements are located at, or even below, sea level. Heavy rainfall floods streets. A relatively new risk is flooding caused by proglacial lake outbursts connected to the retreat of the Caucasus glaciers.
National Action Plan
Given the high vulnerability of Georgia’s coastal zone to climate impacts, a National Action Plan for Adapting to Climate Change in the Coastal Zone of Georgia is being developed as one of the themes of the general National Action Plan for Climate Adaptation. We want to integrate nature-based solutions in this planning process. The World Bank is assisting the Georgian government in preparing this national climate change action plan and I am one of the members of the expert team mobilised by the World Bank. The study tour is one of the components that supports responsible public entities to share the best international experience in coastal zone protection.
Centuries of experience
The study tour offered a great opportunity to see how the Netherlands has defended itself from water for centuries. Although a large part of the country is below sea level, it is one of the safest deltas in the world. In recent years, nature-based solutions are increasingly applied as good, sustainable alternatives or complements to conventional engineering solutions.The objective of the study tour was to leverage Dutch expertise on nature-based solutions. We wanted to learn about nature-based water management and flood control measures in cities, rivers and coastal zone areas in the Netherlands, and about the potential of integrating nature-based infrastructure along with, or sometimes instead of, grey infrastructure.
Personal learning objectives
The Georgian delegation consisted of senior officials in the fields of infrastructure, regional development, the environment, tourism and resilient cities. All participants were asked to share their personal learning objectives for the week. In my case, I wanted to learn about integrated approaches to challenges related to climate change. I also wanted to better understand how this can be reflected in urban planning while taking the needs of the tourism economy into consideration.
The study tour proved to be very valuable. We visited a series of inspiring projects in which the principles of building with nature were used, such as the Sand Motor. It was interesting to see how depositing a large amount of sand in a single operation avoids repeated disruption of the vulnerable seabed.
Other inspiring visits included the Afsluitdijk. The reinforcement of this 32 km dyke is an interesting project both in scale as well as in the way the contract with the contractors was set up. The contractors brought in their own financing and are responsible for 25 years of maintenance.
We also visited the city of Rotterdam to learn more about its regional River as tidal park programme which aims to improve the experience of the tidal dynamics of the Meuse river for all the city’s inhabitants to enjoy.
On the third day of the study tour, there was a networking event which proved to be a great way to meet and connect with various entities in the Dutch water sector.
Dutch decision making
But the tour was not just about technical solutions, however impressive they are. We also learned a lot about the Dutch concept of decision making and stakeholder engagement. It was very interesting to see how national government, regional water authorities,researchers, contractors and consultancies work together continuously on a long term strategy and with an integrated approach. And how they engage closely with surrounding neighbours and society as an important stakeholder.
After returning to Georgia the lessons learnt will help us to further improve and refresh our action plan. I hope that we will get the opportunity to continue working with Dutch experts in several water related fields and bring last week’s experience one step further, for instance through setting up pilot projects. Maybe NWP can help us bring relevant and interested parties together, just like the great job they did in organising this highly informative study tour!’
About the study tour
The World Bank study tour on nature-based solutions was organised by the Netherlands Water Partnership (NWP), and is financed by the World Bank (WB), the Nationally Determined Contribution Support Facility (NDC Facility), the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR), and the Nordic Development Fund (NDF).