To make cities more sustainable, liveable and resiliant, the global water community must develop and implement integrated solutions. Stand alone solutions fall short when it comes to the complex issue of urban water management.

This was the underlying message of all keynote speakers at the opening ceremony of the International Water Week and Aquatech 2013 trade exhibition in Amsterdam on 4 November 2013.

Completely new urban water system
Executive director Ger Bergkamp of the International Water Association was the first to adress the audience that included over 1000 conference delegates from 130 different countries. Bergkamp set the scene for the conference referring to the prediction that in 2050 70% of the world population will be living in cities. In countries with emerging markets 60% of all their cities have yet to be build, he added.

"There is not much time left to think about completely new integrated solutions to keep all those cities liveable. We must pick up the challenge and reduce the use of water, energy and materials in those cities. We must create an environment for water managers to meet urban planners and industrial leaders and jointly come up with new solutions for large scale implementation worldwide."

His idea is to divert from the current linear urban water system of pumping the water in and out of the city as quickly as possible, to a more circular water system of reuse in order to keep the water within the city as long as possible.

dws-iww-opening-ceremony-nguyen-dinh-toan-350pxLong term strategic planning
The call for integrated solutions was clearly underlined in the keynotes of the deputy ministers from Vietnam and Indonesia. Vietnamese deputy Minister of Construction Nguyen Dinh Toan explained the challenges for the Mekong delta.

The river delta needs a better protection against floods but at the same time the agriculture heavily depends on the current fresh water supplies and the access to the harbour of Ho Chi Minh must be maintained. Nguyen Dinh Toan mentioned the long term development plans that are now being made.

He thanked the Dutch government for assisting with the development of integration of future strategies.

dws-iww-opening-ceremony-wuryanto-350pxFresh water lagoon
The keynote from Indonesian deputy minister Lucky Eko Wuryanto for regional infrastructure was much the same. Recent floods in Jakarta make the cities' water challenges paramount. However the construction of a higher sea wall is not the final solution.

As Wuryanto explained, several areas of Jakarta are subsiding up to 14 cm anually mainly due to exccessive groundwater extraction. Jakarta has to change to another water source and is now considering the construction of a big fresh water lagoon of the coast.

Also Wuryanto thanked the Dutch government for assisting Indonesia to develop an integrated long term water and spatial planning programme.

dws-iww-opening-ceremony-schultz-350pxGovernance and financing
Dutch minister of Infrastructure and Environment, Melanie Schultz van Haegen, welcomed all delegates on behalf of the Dutch government. She made an appeal to build resilient cities without crowded living areas in vulnerable low-lying locations.

According to her it is not enough to improve just the water infrastructure. "To meet the global water challenges it is important to organize the governance and the financing. This has always been the key of the water management in the Netherlands", she said.

Sharing knowledge for world peace
The opening ceremony was also attended by the new chairman of the United Nations Secretary General's Advisory Board on Water (UNSGAB), Prince El Hassan Bin Talal of Jordan. In his key note he referred to his predecessor, the now Dutch king Willem-Alexander and in his footsteps prince El Hassan raised the issue of sanitation in relation to health problems in many regions in the world. He also adressed the issue of sharing water resources in arid regions.

"We need a supranational understanding of the water issues. For this it is important to share knowledge", said prince El Hassan raising the recent brochure of the International Arid Lands Consortium titled Promoting world peace through collaborative research and development.


(photos by NWP/Rob Kamminga)

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More information
Aquatech Amsterdam 2013

International Water Week 2013