Building with Nature – the answer to water related challenges is in nature

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March 22nd is World Water Day. This year’s theme is ‘The answer is in nature’. Over the last decade The Netherlands has gained a lot of experience and knowledge about Nature Based Solutions for water related challenges, also called Building with Nature. Now is the time to scale up knowledge development and application of Nature Based Solutions worldwide. Henk Ovink (Special Envoy for International Water Affairs of The Netherlands) and Henk Nieboer (director of EcoShape) publish a position paper on World Water Day in which they call for joint worldwide upscaling of Nature Based Solutions.

Nature Based Solutions
Nature Based Solutions are a critical part of the answer to water related challenges. They require a comprehensive approach to engineering and combine and address societal needs for flood protection, infrastructure and food production while providing additional benefits in increased biodiversity, CO2 sequestration, recreational and economic values. Furthermore, Nature Based Solutions are adaptable to changing circumstances, often cost effective and more impactful than traditional solutions. Examples are the Sand Motor in The Netherlands and natural mangrove restoration in Java, Indonesia.

Upscaling Nature Based Solutions
Ovink and Nieboer argue in their paper that the following steps are critically important to achieve upscaling:

  • Educate the new generation of engineers, designers, ecologists, policy makers, politicians and managers in the principles of Nature Based Solutions;
  • Develop a credible narrative of Nature Based Solutions on landscape scale for various water related challenges, including business cases and examples of successful (pilot) projects;
  • Implement large scale pilot projects worldwide and disseminate the experience and knowledge gained;
  • Involve communities in the planning and implementation of nature based solutions and equip them with knowledge and financial means in order to scale up and sustain such solutions, working side by side with governments and private sector;
  • Scale up existing pilots and replicate these in international consortia across the globe, in partnership with the financial sector (Multilateral Development Banks, the Green Climate Fund, governments, private sector and pension funds).

Join forces
The public and private sector in The Netherlands successfully work together to tackle these challenges and are open to collaborate globally and share their unique knowledge and experience in the implementation of Nature Based Solutions for water related challenges. Ovink and Nieboer invite the international water sector to join forces and scale up Nature Based Solutions.

Position paper ‘Building with Nature – exploring Nature Based Solutions for water challenges’

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EcoShape is a consortium of engineering firms, knowledge institutes, dredging companies, NGOs and government agencies working together to develop, test and share knowledge about Building with Nature in pilot projects. Partners are Boskalis, Van Oord, Witteveen+Bos, Deltares, Wageningen University, Arcadis, Royal Haskoning DHV, HKV Lijn in Water, IHC, Vereniging van Waterbouwers, Wetlands International and Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management.