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First Blue Deal Congress in Amsterdam

29 June 2023

From 12 to 16 June 2023, the first Blue Deal Congress took place in Amsterdam. Fourteen countries participated in this water congress. They visited Dutch water projects in various parts throughout the country. The congress provided a platform for Dutch and international water organisations and the ministries of Foreign Affairs and Infrastructure & Water Management to exchange knowledge on water governance and management.

20 million people in 2030 

The ambitious goal of the Blue Deal is to protect 20 million people worldwide against water and provide access to sufficient and clean water by 2030. This is the international program of the 21 Dutch water boards and the ministries of Foreign Affairs and Infrastructure & Water Management. The Amstel, Gooi & Vecht Water Authority (AGV) is also participating in the program with five projects in four countries. The Blue Deal program contributes to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals: global goals for sustainable development. The Blue Deal started in 2018 and runs until 2030. 

Day 1: Intercultural Collaboration 

For the first two days, delegations from Argentina, Burkina Faso, Colombia, eSwatini, Ethiopia, Ghana, Indonesia, Kenya, Mozambique, the Palestinian territories, Peru, Romania, Vietnam, and South Africa gathered at the Amstel Boathouse, near the headquarters of Waternet. 

The keynote speaker of the day was Delta Commissioner Peter Glas. He gave a presentation on water management in the Netherlands. For the international delegations, this Dutch model is certainly something they want to learn from. Glas also addressed the challenges that the Netherlands faces, such as the need to retain water rather than drain it: "We go from draining to retaining." There are various areas in which the Netherlands can learn from other countries. The day ended with a session on "Collaboration across cultures" because that's ultimately what the Blue Deal is about: collaborating with various countries and different cultures. Occasionally, this means adapting to each other. Is that a bad thing? Sheriff Aligbeh, representing Culture-Inc., the organization providing the training, doesn't think so. "A chameleon also adapts its colours to the environment but does that change its core?" 

IMG_2171 (2).jpgWorking on stakeholder analyses 

Day 2: Learning from Each Other 

This day focused on six workshops on topics that play a significant role within the Blue Deal. The session themes comprised of water pricing, water safety management, stakeholder participation, urban wastewater management, nature-based solutions, and smart monitoring. These themes are also addressed throughout the year within the Blue Deal through Communities of Practice. Participants from all partnerships were able to take part in these sessions.  

IMG_2191 (2).jpgWorld Waternet with its delegations from Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Kenya, the Palestinian territories, and Laos 

Day 3: Water Management in Practice 

On the last day of the congress, the delegations had the opportunity to see Dutch water management in practice. Participants could choose from excursions to one of these locations: the Markermeerdijken, the Zandmotor, or the Amsterdamse Waterleidingduinen. 

IMG_2197 (2).jpgPresentation by Frank Smits on Water Management 

Frank Smits, a hydrologist at Waternet, who gave the tour of the Amsterdamse Waterleidingduinen, explained, "When building cities, people have always been looking for ways to supply water." He first gave a presentation on how Dutch water management actually works. This day was not so much about governance, as the participants had already learned about that on Monday, but about how the Netherlands has been dealing with water safety and sufficient water since its inception.

The questions clearly showed the challenges the countries themselves are facing. A participant from Ethiopia asked how the Netherlands makes agreements with the other countries that share the same rivers upstream. Another participant asked who determines the depth at which groundwater can be pumped, for example, by farmers, and how regulations and enforcement work in that regard. They also inquired about how water pollution is prevented.

Although the Amsterdamse Waterleidingduinen are primarily intended for drinking water, participants can still learn a lot from them for their work. For example, they learned about purification using natural sources such as the dunes. And how water management and nature conservation can be effectively combined, as demonstrated in the Amsterdamse Waterleidingduinen. Park ranger Alfons Daniëls put it aptly: "If we take care of nature, nature will take care of us." Additionally, in other countries, drinking water and other water management are not always separated. 

IMG_2209 (2).jpgPark ranger Alfons explains more about the ecology in the area. 

The other groups visited two projects related to water safety: the Markermeerdijken and the Zandmotor. 

The congress concluded festively with a dinner and music performed by the Waternet band 'Low Pressure,' that had rehearsed music from the participating countries, especially for this occasion. The delegates showed great enthusiasm and impressive dance moves! 

Check out the aftermovie!

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