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Mare@Suriname blog #1

Mare@Suriname blog #1
12 June 2024

Hi everyone! My name is Mare den Haan, I am a student at the University of Amsterdam, MSc Spatial Sustainability Studies: Urban and Regional Planning. For my thesis, I knew I wanted to work on something practical, a case study. I was looking into options when I spoke with Alice Fermont, who I know from playing volleyball, who suggested working on the Makandra project in Suriname with World Waternet. Since then, my life consisted of planning out my 2-month stay; a house, a bike, packing my luggage, while also writing my proposal. And now, I’m all settled in Paramaribo! What is volleyball not good for?!

Since a couple of weeks, the Makandra project has started. This project aims to strengthen the team of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWB) at the Ministry of Natural Resources. This team has been recently set up in order to manage water in Suriname more efficiently and effectively. Suriname is struggling with water problems such as flooding, poor water quality and increasing draughts and extreme weather patterns due to climate change. Water infrastructures like pumps and water purification systems are outdated or are not functioning anymore. It is the belief of the Ministry that IWB will help solve these problems.  

In the first 1.5 week in Paramaribo together with the Waternet and Rijkswaterstaat colleagues, lots of meetings were planned to get to know the most important stakeholders in this project. Firstly, the team of the Ministry of Natural Resources, who were very keen on getting to know us and learning a lot about water management. SWM, who is responsible for water assets in the north of Suriname, and Waterplatform, a group of experts of different ministries and the Anton de Kom University who meet up and talk about water. Together with the Ministry of Public Works, we went on a field trip to look at a couple of water assets in Paramaribo. We observed that lots were indeed outdated, creeks and canals were not maintained and there was a lot of household waste buildup in the water. We also went on a longer trip to Brokopondo (the biggest reservoir of Suriname, located south of Paramaribo), visiting the District Commissioners and learning more about the problems that inhabitants face in this area. All these field trips were done together with the team of the Ministry of Natural Resources. Some of the workers had never been to these important places. It was a learning experience for everyone.  

After 1.5 week, my Dutch colleagues flew back home while I stayed behind in Paramaribo. I have an office space at the Ministry, so I can work and get to know the team at the same time! In my research, I will be focusing on the governance side of things – including conducting a water governance assessment - and hopefully do a spatial analysis if data on temperature, water quality, precipitation and flooding is available. Last week, I submitted my thesis proposal, and got a green light (phew!). In my next blog post I will be elaborating more on my research and give some preliminary results! See you next time :)