Closing speech by Cora van Nieuwenhuizen, Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management, Vitens-Evides International WaterWorX, Ho Chi Minh City

“Globally we’re facing the major challenge of securing our basic needs, including water. We have a duty of care towards each other as human beings.
The far-reaching consequences of climate change are being felt all over the world. So we need to work together at international level.”

Closing speech by Cora van Nieuwenhuizen, Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management, Vitens-Evides International WaterWorX, Ho Chi Minh City, 11 April 2019

Your Excellencies, representatives of Vietnamese and Dutch water companies, ladies and gentlemen,

‘Clean water and adequate sanitation are critical to survival. They can positively impact other key goals such as food security, education and health.
The planet has enough fresh water for everyone, but bad economics and poor infrastructure limit access.’
These aren’t my own words.

You may recognise them from the call to action on Global Sustainable Development Goal 6.
Clean water and sanitation for all is a demand we can and must make. For everyone. All over the world.
Climate change is making that task even more complex. Extreme rainfall and rising sea levels are putting pressure on our infrastructure. Rising sea levels and droughts are leading to salinisation.
As the inhabitants of low-lying deltas we know this better than anyone. Both in the Netherlands and here in Vietnam.
Subsidence is also a major concern. The ground is sinking several centimetres each year due to drinking water being pumped up from the ground.
If this problem isn’t addressed, in 70 years from now almost half of the Mekong Delta will be below sea level.
The same Mekong Delta that is Southeast Asia’s food basket and of vital importance to Vietnam’s economy.
In Resolution 120 Prime Minister Phuc rightly called for an end to groundwater extraction.

So Vietnam needs to start looking for alternatives.
Like water retention, whereby fresh water is stored during the rainy season to be used in periods of drought. As drinking water, but also for agriculture for example.
I’m pleased that subsidence is a top priority for VEI and its Vietnamese partners.

Ladies and gentlemen,

This morning you spoke about water supply.
About clean water for millions of people in a changing world. For the 18 million living in the Mekong Delta.
You spoke about water supply at a time of climate change. And you concluded that this calls for new investments in infrastructure over the next few years.
The stakes are high.

Globally we’re facing the major challenge of securing our basic needs, including water.
We have a duty of care towards each other as human beings.
The far-reaching consequences of climate change are being felt all over the world.
So we need to work together at international level.

To promote that international cooperation, I initiated the Global Commission on Adaptation.
This commission – led by Kristalina Georgieva, Ban Ki-moon and Bill Gates – began work last October.
I’m proud of their hard-working team, whose efforts are bringing countries together.

Your water infrastructure is good. But salinisation, drought, subsidence and surface water pollution pose big challenges.
Mr Rik Dierx of the non-profit organisation Vitens-Evides International just presented the results of the ‘Climate Change and Water Supply in the Mekong Delta’ project.
Carried out in close cooperation with SAWACO and other water companies in the delta, this collaborative project achieved good results.
Millions of people benefit from those results every day. So I’m pleased that our collaboration will continue.

On 23 January you signed a partnership agreement for the WaterWorX project.
WaterWorX brings together Dutch water companies with counterparts in the provinces of Hau Giang, Soc Trang and Can Tho.
The aim is to build a sustainable and resilient water supply system.
This system must be able to cope with climate change, population increase, urbanisation and economic growth.
There are 8.6 million people living here in Ho Chi Minh City. That puts enormous pressure on the water supply.
Over the next few years you will be working together through WaterWorX to boost the financial, technical and social sustainability of regional water infrastructure.

The programme will run until 2030, allowing you to work towards really lasting results.
Dutch water companies will share operational know-how and management support, so that Vietnamese water companies are better equipped for their future tasks.
Together you will set up investment projects and seek funding from banks.
The Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management is helping to make this possible.
I’m delighted to see for myself that we’re contributing directly to stronger Vietnamese water companies and better water infrastructure.

I wholeheartedly welcome the plans to expand WaterWorX to the whole Mekong Delta.
Cooperation between multiple parties makes it possible to expand the programme’s reach and give millions more people access to clean water.
All parties have shown firm ownership of this strong, substantive and international partnership, through their efforts, involvement and financial contributions.
I would like to thank all those involved for their commitment.

It sends an important signal to other parts of the world: by bringing knowledge, expertise, manpower and financial resources together we can work towards clean water for all.

Ladies and gentlemen,
The Global Commission on Adaptation is working hard to push climate adaptation higher up the global agenda. To convert the sense of urgency into action.
The WaterWorX project is an excellent example of such action. And that’s another reason I value it so much.
I would very much like to stay informed and I look forward to hearing about your progress at the next intergovernmental committee meeting with deputy prime minister Dung.

Thank you.