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Prince of Orange attends Water and Sustainable Development Seminar

posted on 19/01/2009: 1832 views

The Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi (EAD), in cooperation with the Embassy of the Netherlands in Abu Dhabi, organized a 1-day seminar on Sunday on Water and Sustainable Development.

The seminar was attended by H.R.H the Prince of Orange, Crown Prince of the Netherlands Willem-Alexander; H.E Dr. Rashid Ahmed Bin Fahad, UAE Minister of Environment and Water; H.E Frank Heemskerk, Minister for Foreign Trade of the Netherlands , H.E Gilles Arnout Beschoor Plug, the Ambassador of the Netherlands, and H.E Majid Al Mansouri, Secretary General of EAD.

More than 50 specialists from relevant Government and Private Departments from both countries attended the seminar, including representatives from the Netherlands Gulf Region Water Platform (NGWP).

During the seminar, participants discussed cooperation and bilateral relations between the UAE and the Netherlands in regards to cooperation in the area of sustainable management of water resources, modelling of groundwater, establishing water database.

H.E Rashid Ahmed Bin Fahad, Minister of Environment and Water, said in his speech "I am confident that in this gathering of seminar of water experts, water technology providers and developers form both sides provide guidance on the areas of future cooperation and identify the necessary steps to kick start the process of cooperation between our two friendly nations." The Minister noted that the UAE Government had given high priority to the subject of Water in its Policy Agenda, with a particular focus placed on major undertakings to urgently meet rising water demand and enhancing investment in adapting water technologies that enable water security in the future.

He added that since the UAE is an arid region with no fresh surface water resources and insignificant rainfall, this has lead to high dependency on the non-conventional resources such as desalination and the reuse of treated wastewater. The UAE has 114 water dams with a joint capacity of 118 million cubic meters of rain water. The fresh groundwater aquifers are near depletion and the water quality has deteriorated due to the over abstraction from these aquifers. The desalination capacity is about 1.0 Billion Cubic Meter a year which makes the UAE the world's second producer of desalinated water.

H.E Bin Fahad noted that water reuse manipulates the water cycle to create alternative water resources, and at the same time, reduces the effluent discharge to the environment. An on-going, nation-wide programme for the reuse of waste water enables in excess of 338 million cubic meters of recycled water to be used in landscaping and green belts areas per year.

Recently, the Government has developed an integrated water resources management plan to assess the present and future demand and the mitigation measures to avoid gaps between supply and demand. Part of this programme has resulted in the uptake by farmers of modern irrigation systems across 86 per cent of the UAE's cultivated areas.

"A water resources information management system and central database is under development. All data about available resources and the demand centre will be stored and supply demand model will be used to support the water planners and decision makers," the Minister added.

The Minister said that the UAE Government has set itself a challenge to transform the national water sector into a world-class utility by adapting an integrated water resources management and sustainable development strategy. This strategy comprised of development of a Water Master Plan through which Government and other stakeholders operate in an integrated manner, planned organizational restructuring and privatization of its water services in line with international best practices; enhancing the efficiency of existing sea water desalination plants, while reducing their ecological foot print; increases the use of renewable energy resources, to augment the energy required for desalination in the short run and develop more sustainable water desalination technologies in the long run.

It also includes a strategic reserve, plumbing code, alternative water irrigation and landscaping technologies, as well as plans for awareness and capacity building programmes both for the public and at the level of the government and water administrator's level.

H.E. Bin Fahad said "The UAE Government has entered into a partnership with the Arab Water Council, the Islamic Development Bank and the World Bank in establishing the Arab Water Academy, which is hosted by the Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi. A highly automated and interactive water learning centre is planned to engage school children and the public in changing water consumption patterns in our society." He noted that the UAE has directed a lot of attention towards the impact of Climate Change on water resources and future demand, where the related social, economic and environment aspects of Climate Change represent a basic component of the country's policy in this respect.

H.E Frank Heemskerk, Minister for Foreign Trade of the Netherlands said that the UAE and the Netherlands have a lot in common and out ties go back a long way, also Water plays a prominent role in the history of both our countries.

"Netherlands has developed great expertise in producing and treating water, and in installing water-related infrastructure in challenging locations and under pressure., so today we have unique expertise in all water related field," he added.

He said to facilitate the transfer of knowledge; the Netherlands-Gulf Region Water Platform (NGWP) was set up in 2007. The umbrella group gathers water companies, equipment suppliers, non-governmental organizations, research centres, as well as government departments into a one-stop shop for Dutch water expertise.

He concluded "today, we want to share our experience, and we can see many opportunities for cooperation and partnerships in the UAE".

H.E Majid Mansouri, EAD's Secretary General, said that said that the prospects for cooperation between the two countries will include institutional and methodological aspects of the integrated management and sustainable water resources development and the possibility of both operational and systematic management of these resources, training and capacity-building and transfer of technology and Dutch expertise in the field of water.

During the seminar Dr. Mohammed Dawood, , Manager of Natural Resources Policy, EAD gave a presentation about Water Resources in UAE, where Dick van Dijk, Gulf Region Water Platform (NGWP) Regional Coordinator gave an introduction about NGWP.

Demand driven research: organization, developments, cases was highlighted by P. (Paul) Buijs, Managing Director, Global Membrains / Wetsus, than R. (Rene) Noppeney, Director of Water Royal Haskoning gave a presentation on Design and Construction of Water Infrastructure Dense Coastal Zones.

Innovative Water Technology Developments, was highlighted by H. (Harry) Futselaar, Business Development Manager, Norit , while Efficient Water Use and Food Security (agriculture) in the UAE was addressed by Mr. J. Hadders, Dacom. – Emirates News Agency, WAM


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