Real cooperation for real goals: Strong Sino-Dutch cooperation for sponge cities

Genuine interest and solid partners. That is how mr. Bert Dautzenberg from Hanging Water Tank describes his experiences with partner Hengji Water Group. Last week, they started a new research project together on investigating and demonstrating the use and possibilities of sponge buildings. Many Chinese cities experience waterlogging during the raining season. In order to improve the drainage challenge in these cities, the Chinese government has launched sponge city projects in a number of pilot cities.

But mr. Dautzenberg mentions that the implementation of these sponge cities can still be limited. “We actively promote sponge buildings, which is on a much smaller scale. This makes the opportunities and possibilities much clearer to municipalities and governments. Our visibility is growing very fast and these buildings offer a more practical approach to the concept. We can build a sponge building within 2 weeks and the gathered data is put online so that everyone can use it.”

The construction of a sponge city is a complex task of systems engineering and requires the support of a high volume of data about the city's natural geography, social economy, water resources, and eco-environment. Mr. Dautzenberg emphasizes that the data they collect is internationally available. Such a widespread network also benefits from broad support.

“Everyone’s support was very important in realizing this project. During the project presentation, many different parties were present. There is a lot of interest in Dutch knowledge and expertise, but governmental involvement is key. Normally, when we work with a private client, the project depends on his or her willingness to finish it. This time, the governments on both sides are working together and this provides a very stable basis. In this way, we can also show other Dutch companies what opportunities there are by being one of the pioneers.”

Ample of room for increased cooperation

These aspects were also emphasized during the Sino-Dutch Sponge City Development Seminar which was held in Chongqing last Monday. Building a resilient city adaptive to climate change, dynamic planning, monitoring and evaluation technologies for water management, introducing the Dutch approach to water management; these are all projects which could lead to very fruitful Sino-Dutch cooperation.

The willingness and readiness of Chinese partners and the government is something that also pleasantly surprised mr. Dautzenberg. “Hengji Water Group and the Chinese government have invested a lot in this project from their side. There was a very sincere interest in our project and to work together. Oftentimes, the first questions are: What is in it for me? How much can you pay or deliver? This time, those aspects were of least interest to the Chinese parties. They just wanted to work together and bear the costs as well as the risks. I feel we have created a very strong bond of trust here and a very open and friendly atmosphere.”