|Export of hydrological knowledge – presentations available|
On Thursday 12 May 2016 the Netherlands Hydrological Society (NHV), together with the Netherlands Chapter of IAH, organized a conference on the «Export of hydrological expertise» in an inspiring setting in Amersfoort (NL). The presentations are now available. As it turns out, hydrologists, water experts per se, are not benefiting much from the Dutch governmental efforts to promote water business.
During the NHV General Member Meeting just prior of the conference Ms Pytrik Graafsma was elected as NHV board member for website matters and Ms Mieke Hulshof was elected for general, student and conference affairs. Mr Michael van der Valk was re-elected for International Relations for the fourth consecutive time unanimously by the NHV membership. For the first time in history the NHV board now (finally) has four women.
As it turns out – and also one of the reasons for this interesting topic – hydrologists, water experts per se, are not benefiting much from the Dutch governmental efforts to promote water business. For example, the daily rate for the newly established DSS (“Dutch Surge Support”) Water setup, by which Dutch water experts can quickly intervene in case of water-related disasters abroad, is € 200. Apart from lenghty VAT discussions this is hardly enough to sustain a normal business in the Netherlands. In the end only retired experts are able to do this kind of work next to their pension. What is shown to UN relief organizations as a “Dutch contribution” is in fact a contribution of the expert and his business. None of the hydrologists at the conference had ever been involved so far.
Another important issue that was raised is the lack of data sustainability. The Dutch government has been funding water-related development cooperation projects for decades, but much of the gathered data is lost and unavailable. Only through the institutional memory of retired experts and their personal connections essential groundwater data could be rescued and used in developing countries for IWRM projects with a strong groundwater component. The loss of data and knowledge is fostered by the unsustainable management of projects by the Netherlands government, as was shown by several examples where efficient and well-operated projects of consultants or UN organizations were just cut off by the Netherlands government, sometimes because they “wanted to do something else”.
A more extensive report will be made available soon.
With governments going commercial nowadays there is much to do about export of Dutch water expertise. Dutch business is to be branded and sold during ministerial missions, supported by ambassadors and embassy staff. The Dutch have a 'water ambassador' and board members of water boards visit Asian countries more often than not. Meanwhile Memoranda of Understanding are being signed several times per year.
What does this bring for the water experts, the hydrologists that actually do the work abroad? Is the international image of the Netherlands as 'water expert country' due to the government's commercial activities or rather because of those experts that work abroad?
– Robbert van Montfoort, Arcadis
– Bart Goes, Mott MacDonald
– Roel Dijksma, Wageningen University and Research Centre
– Arjen de Vries, Acacia Water