Welcome to this seminar, and welcome to the Netherlands pavilion. The perfect setting for a seminar on integrated water management.
What makes it so perfect?
Well, we are in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, one of the hottest and driest areas in the world. And yet, visitors to the Netherlands pavilion need umbrellas! Pure magic from the Dutch polders.
That magic is created by an ingenious piece of technology, which extracts water from the dry desert air. Water that can be used for food production. It’s a fine example of the nexus between water, energy and food.
This kind of international innovation is exactly what we need more of if we want our future to be sustainable. That’s why we’re here this week.
I’m very proud of this broad trade mission, involving fifty different businesses and knowledge institutions from three sectors: water, sustainable energy and the circular economy. We have a great deal of knowledge and expertise that we’re keen to share with other countries.
Particularly with the UAE, in a region where neither water nor the food supply can be taken for granted. Less than 10 per cent of the food consumed in this country is produced in the UAE. And even that requires more than 60 per cent of the fresh water supply!
So innovations like this are badly needed. And with that in mind, it’s great that we can present this pavilion, with its theme of ‘Uniting water, energy and food – Connecting minds for a sustainable future’.
This illustrates precisely why we are holding this seminar. Many thanks to the Netherlands Water Partnership for hosting it.
And I’m pleased that we are working in partnership with Singapore. Not only are we neighbours at this Expo, we’re also allies in the field of water management. We’re both small countries. Both very densely populated. And both dependent on smart and sustainable water management.
Singapore’s water consumption is growing, but it has hardly any water sources of its own. It is now a global leader, with its smart and sustainable water management system that re-uses every single drop.
Sixty per cent of the Netherlands is at risk of flooding. Several major European rivers converge in our country. And rising sea levels are a threat.
We need to focus on accelerated climate adaptation in order to stay resilient in the face of climate change. For us, smart water management is a matter of survival.
We can benefit from each other’s knowledge. This is a matter of growing urgency. And we need to keeping acquiring new knowledge. We’re seeing this around the world. Including in my own country, despite our long history of successful water management.
Last summer, the south of our country was hit by major floods. Never before had so much water flowed through the river Maas. A few weeks ago I spoke to many residents and businesspeople there. They are still dealing with the effects. Not just financially, but psychologically too.
Three years ago, they experienced the exact opposite. The low water levels in the same river broke all records. Construction projects had to be halted because building materials couldn’t be delivered by river. And the drinking water supply was in danger of running out, due to increasing salinisation.
Even with its recognised track record in water management, the Netherlands still has plenty of work to do. And the same is true of most countries. That’s why we’re all here. This seminar is part of a bigger picture.
Ninety per cent of all climate-related disasters have something to do with water. The climate problem is a water problem. There’s either too much water or not enough. Or the water we have is too dirty.
Water is the basis for health, for our food supply, for prosperity. This is reflected in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. For all 17 of these SDGs, water is essential. And we’re not on track to achieve them. We need a greater sense of urgency, more action and more knowledge-sharing.
The Netherlands is more than willing to do its part.
The next UN conference on water is in March next year in New York. I’m very pleased that the Netherlands, together with Tajikistan, will be co-hosting this event. The first UN Water Conference since Mar del Plata in 1977! So it’s about time.
We need successful and scalable solutions to enhance and promote the SDGs. So we must ensure that 2023 is indeed the springboard that catalyses action on water access for all.
The UAE is also an active international player in this respect. This is where COP28 will be held in 2023. And water is playing an increasingly significant role at the COPs.
The Netherlands and the UAE have had a good relationship for fifty years now. And this has led to many great water partnerships, both recent and longer-term ones. A great example is LG Sonic, which uses a sustainable approach to tackle algae, and so plays a key role in the water supply. You’ll be hearing more about this today.
These are all great examples of how water is both our friend and enemy. Water connects us. But it’s now more urgent than ever that we not just connect with each other, but actually take joint action.
I wish you a very inspiring day, and we’ll see each other again later on.