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VietNamNews

Deltas on frontlines of change

Update: May, 25/2013 - 09:53

Renske Peters from the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment spoke with Viet Nam News about climate change on the sidelines of the World Delta Dialogues II conference in HCM City.

What was your impression of the World Delta Dialogues conference this week?

Viet Nam and the Netherlands are both delta countries. It is clear that the water sector is an important area of co-operation, and the second World Delta Dialogues' event is at the heart of our work.

All deltaic leaders from around the world, including myself, are involved as either researchers or decision-makers. So we all know what it means to live with water and what the benefits and challenges are.

I hope that this conference, in the spirit of the year of water cooperation of the United Nations, will help provide solutions that we have shared successfully with our Vietnamese and American partners.

What challenges do deltas face?

Deltas in Viet Nam, the US, the Netherlands and other countries are currently facing many problems. Deltas and floodplains are bearing the brunt of the effects of socio-economic change and shifting patterns of land-use.

Already, approximately half of the world's population lives in deltas and floodplains, and by 2050 this will be over 70 per cent. Most of these people will live in large cities. Population will attract investment and vice versa.

In our common future, deltas will be where we earn our livelihoods and where we will strive to lead healthy and prosperous lives. This puts a massive strain on the balanced ecosystems of these areas.

Large populations use massive resources and produce not only economic important output, but also generate copious waste. They influence limited water resources in two ways, by extraction and by pollution.

How does climate change affect deltas?

With climate change, the distribution of water on our planet changes. Sea levels rise. Discharge from rivers change, bringing periods of more water, and indeed floods; or periods with less water, causing salinisation and water scarcity, and droughts.

Precipitation becomes more intense. Coupled with the increase in pavement and impermeable surfaces, this creates problems with run-off for our cities, and local flooding.

These are not small problems, but serious problems. Providing healthy and prosperous lives for our citizens starts with providing water safety and water security, both to protect against flooding and to ensure sufficient fresh water.

These are requirements for investment and sustainable growth, for increasing productivity. Water safety and security cannot be treated as an afterthought, as they are essential for economic development.

What are the most effective solutions to these challenges?

This year is the year of International Water Cooperation. Water safety and water security can only be attained by cooperation and cooperation on all kinds of levels.

International cooperation between delta countries, of which the second World Delta Dialogues is a fine example, is one such level.

As in 2010 at the first conference, this conference brought together many experts and government officials to work on solutions to these challenges, to learn from each other's expertise and experience.

There is a need for more research, innovations and new answers. We cannot do it alone.

Could you be more specific about solutions?

We are here at the conference to strike new partnerships, to share knowledge and think about new financing models, like new forms of public-private partnerships.

Cost reduction and more efficiency are needed, so we need to think about business plans for our solutions.

We should also cooperate on development, for example, through joint programming, pilots, and we must work together on new concepts like building with nature or water efficiency in relation to agriculture.

How are Viet Nam and the Netherlands working together to cope with climate change?

Viet Nam and the Netherlands are cooperating successfully in the fields of water management, water technology and delta technology. There are strong bonds between our institutes and our governments. Those are needed in order to tackle the challenges facing our deltas.

Our Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment is working closely with the Vietnamese ministries of Natural Resources and Environment and Agriculture and Rural Development and other ministries on the development of a long-term vision for the sustainable development of the Mekong Delta.

This is an area of both national and international importance, particularly in view of its agricultural and ecological potential.

Last month, we also worked with the HCM City administration to finalise a Climate-Change Adaptation Strategy for the city. — VNS


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