Speech minister Van Nieuwenhuizen bij opening seminar 'Water Business Dialogues', Vietnam


“What is good water management? The message we Dutch want to share is that it’s not just about preventing flooding. It’s not just about ensuring there’s enough clean water. And it’s not just about protecting deltas, agriculture and nature. Everything is connected.”


Esteemed representatives of the People’s Committees and the Dutch Water Authorities,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Welcome to this wonderful hotel, and above all, to this important seminar. Today, everything that inspired the Dutch delegation’s visit to Vietnam is coming together!

We’re certainly in a very special location.

Because it was here in the Rex Hotel in 1976 that the reunification of North and South Vietnam was announced.

Creating the foundation of the Vietnam we know today.

  • A confident country with big ambitions.

  • A hospitable country that welcomes foreign businesses with open arms and works hard to remove obstacles to trade.

  • A country that sets such an example that it was chosen to host discussions between the US and North Korea earlier this year.

Now, in 2019, Vietnam is an economic miracle. The WorldBank and the IMF speak highly of its dynamic, open economy.

The country is charting a new course that is benefiting many of its citizens. Poverty is a fraction of what it was 30 years ago.

These are fantastic results. And an excellent basis for investment. The Netherlands is keen to get on board!

Last year, Vietnam and the Netherlands celebrated 45 years of friendship.

Ms Ngan, Chair of the National Assembly of Vietnam, paid a visit to the Netherlands to mark this important anniversary.

Vietnam and the Netherlands are natural allies.

We both have strong agricultural and maritime sectors. And we’re both coastal states, strategically positioned in river deltas.

We face the same challenges when it comes climate change, urbanisation, industrialisation and subsidence.

Since 2010 we’ve enjoyed a strong cooperative relationship in water management, thanks to our countries’ Strategic Partnership Arrangement.

A partnership that brings together government, research institutions and the private sector.

A partnership in which we think up solutions and slowly – but surely – move towards implementation.

A partnership that requires big investments and financial expertise.

The name of this seminar – Water Business Dialogues, Diverting Money Flows to Water: a Business Perspective – says it all.

Good governance, knowledge and partnerships with the private sector go hand in hand. They are the key to sustainable economic growth.

I don’t think anyone doubts that.               

The Mekong Delta is the bread basket of Southeast Asia. Together with low-lying Ho Chi Min City, it forms the economic engine of Vietnam.

Prosperity in this country stands or falls with good water management.

But what is good water management?

The message we Dutch want to share is that it’s not just about preventing flooding.

It’s not just about ensuring there’s enough clean water.

And it’s not just about protecting deltas, agriculture and nature.

Everything is connected.

In the Netherlands, we’ve discovered this to our cost.

After an enormous flood that killed over 1,800 people in the 1950s, we built large dams to close our country off from the sea.

We’ve become internationally famous for this approach. And it’s true: we’re the safest delta in the world.

But nature has suffered. Water quality has suffered. Fish stocks have suffered.

Nature is more powerful than humans. Something Vietnam knows all too well.

We’ve learned that those ‘hard’ solutions are not always the best. That’s why, for the last decade, the Netherlands has been building with nature.

  • In various places we’re letting the water reclaim land. Because water and nature sometimes need more room than they have right now.

  • In other places we’re collecting and storing overflow rainwater, like in the water plazas in Rotterdam.
    These plazas can be used to catch excess water when needed. And in drier times, the water can be re-used.

Building with nature. It’s an integrated approach. And the only one we believe works.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In the Netherlands, it has taken us decades of working with businesses and research institutions to realise this is the way forward.

But in Vietnam, we can hit the ground running!

That’s why I welcome your Prime Minister’s Government Resolution 120. It provides a firm foundation for sustainable development.

Together with the 2013 joint Vietnamese-Dutch Mekong Delta Plan the focus is now on implementation.

And Vietnam is working closely with my ministry and Dutch businesses in that regard.

It’s also been working with the Dutch Water Authorities for a number of years now.

The Water Authorities are the Netherlands’ oldest tier of government.

They’ve existed since the thirteenth century, purely out of necessity. So they have 700 years of knowledge and experience!

Next month, the new cooperative programme with the Dutch Water Authorities will be launched: under the promising name of the Blue Dragon Project.

Across three four-year periods, Vietnam and the Netherlands will work together to create a solid governance structure to not only control the water in the Mekong Delta but also to make it work for Vietnam.

Because water might sometimes be our enemy. But, often, it’s also a good friend.

From irrigation and crop-growing, right through to transport.

With its coastline and location in a major river delta, Vietnam is sitting on a goldmine.

  • We can make waterways even more navigable.

  • We can make ports deeper so they can take even bigger ships.

  • We can speed up port turnaround times and transport from the hinterland even more.

If properly maintained, waterways offer an efficient, reliable, safe and sustainable transport route. One that can’t be bettered by overland options.

And I’d like to discuss one other aspect of sustainability.

I mentioned it earlier: an integrated approach, which includes respect for nature. That’s something you’re going to discuss today.

Because household waste and plastic don’t belong in rivers.

In fact, waste is full of raw materials that can be used to make new products.

The Dutch government wants the Netherlands to use 50 per cent fewer raw materials by 2030.

Today, businesses and organisations from Vietnam and the Netherlands will come together to discuss how we can also increase recycling and re-use in Vietnam.

This was something I discussed yesterday with Minister of Industry and Trade Anh [uitspraak: Anj].

A circular economy will help us achieve the Paris climate goals.

Something that Vietnam also wants to do. We owe it to future generations.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I’d like to end with a quote from the famous American oceanographer Sylvia Earle:

‘No water, no life. No blue, no green.’

The words are simple. But it underlines just how vital water is to life here on planet earth.

I hope that today’s seminar will help Vietnamese and Dutch organisations and companies create mutually beneficial partnerships.

I wish you constructive discussions, rewarding ventures and lots of inspiration.

Tôi chúc b?n m?i di?u may m?n! (=Ik wens u allen veel succes!)

Thank you.



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