Speech minister Melanie Schultz van Haegen at the Egypt-The Netherlands Waterpanel

Vandaag, 12 januari 2017, sprak minister Schultz van Haegen bij het Egyptisch-Nederland high-level water panel in Alexandrië (Egypte) over onder andere kustmanagement en water en landbouw. De minister prees de ingezette acties van het water panel, maar benadrukte tegelijkertijd dat er nog tal van mogelijkheden liggen voor verdere samenwerking op het terrein van kennisuitwisseling en projecten. Schultz: ‘There are many solutions and successful approaches at hand. Not just in the future, but now. This panel offers us a perfect platform for exchanging experiences. A springboard to investment in clear, practical actions that will benefit both our countries. Because making our world safer and better for everyone is a work in progress.’ De minister bezocht ook een aantal waterprojecten langs de kust van Egypte.

Your Excellency, fellow panel members, ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great privilege to be here in the impressive, historic city of Alexandria. It is interesting to be in Alexandria to have the opportunity to get a glimpse of the challenges of the Egyptian coast since coastal zone management is one of the main topics of this panel meeting.

The last time I was in Egypt was in August 2015 at the opening of the new Suez canal.
A true masterpiece, whose construction set a world record.


Something that Egypt can be very proud of.
And also proof of the fruitfull partnership between Egypt and the Netherlands.
Dutch dredging companies played an important part in this enormous and complex project.

Equally enormous and complex are all the water-related challenges we both face.
This morning I visited some impressive field projects.
It was good to see with my own eyes the actions and challenges that lie ahead on issues like coastal erosion.

Our countries have a special bond with water.
We’ve been working together closely in this field for more than 40 years now!

The Memorandum of Understanding we signed in November 2014 is a good illustration of our partnership.
With this MoU we expressed our joint interest in the further development of a long-term balanced partnership on water.  
This is a process of change.
We ‘re moving from a relationship based on development cooperation, towards a relation based on mutual benefits.
From a primarily government to government relationship towards a cooperation involving governments, private sector, knowledge institutes and donors in both countries.
As well as donors like the World Bank, the European Union and the Green Climate Fund.
And the focus of our relationship is shifting from  studies to financing and implementation of projects.


It’s a process takes time.
Yet when I look at the agenda for the panel meeting today it’s clear that a lot has already been accomplished.
We are definitely on the right track.

Let’s take coastal zone management as an example.
Coastal erosion is a major concern both in Egypt and in the Netherlands.
In the Netherlands it threatens the stability of the dunes which protect an area that is home to 4 million people.
We’re trying to safeguard the stability of the dunes by opting for ‘building with nature’ solutions based on sand nourishment.  
Our approach is based on prevention.
A far better and also more economical solution than accepting a high risk of flooding.  


I realize the situation along Egypt’s northern coast is different.
For a start, it’s a thousand kilometres long.  
Some stretches are densely populated like here in Alexandria and also Port Said, other parts are sparsely populated.
I look forward to seeing some stretches of your coastline this afternoon.

It’s likely that in Egypt too, prevention is better than accepting high risks of flooding or loss of land.
The question is, which measures are most effective and where are they needed?
Can building with ‘nature and sand nourishment concepts be applied here as well?  
What other measures can be implemented in  specific situations?

It’s obviously important for Egypt to know the answers to these questions, so as to protect its coastal zone.
As we all know, there is not a ‘one size fits all solution’.
And despite our long experience of water management, the Netherlands can still benefit greatly from Egypt’s knowledge and experience.

Our partnership is a mutual source of valuable experience.
Experience that can also be beneficial and relevant for other countries.
That was the main reason why I initiated the ‘Delta Coalition’.

Egypt and the Netherlands are both members of the Delta Coalition.
This platform will allow delta countries to join forces and profit from  the sharing of best practices.
Our discussion on coastal management also illustrates the need to focus on organizing finance.
I heard that you have applied for funding from the Green Climate Fund.
We’re most willing to support this process.  

Ladies and gentlemen,
Another interesting topic on the agenda today is water and agriculture.
I am especially looking forward to the presentation on Geodata and satellite information; both promising techniques.
The Netherlands and the FAO started an initiative using Remote Sensing data to monitor crop water productivity, or ‘crop per drop’.
It creates great opportunities for policymakers, private sector and farmers to improve water use in agriculture.

I know Egypt is performing well in terms of water efficiency.
But can it do even better?
And if so, how?

Agriculture is by far the largest water user, consuming almost 90% of the total fresh water reserves in Egypt.  
So there’s a great need to optimize water use in agriculture.
A need fort climate-smart agriculture.
A need for a revolution in agricultural water use.
The Netherlands can provide added value here by sharing our experience with brackish water agriculture and closed systems of greenhouses.

Water and agriculture is very much a theme of mutual interest.
This might sound strange, given the enormous difference in rainfall in our two countries.
But good-quality water can also be scarce in the Netherlands.
In some areas, ground and surface are saline .
And horticulture also has very specific water requirements.

Various solutions have been developed, like the use of satellite data to optimize farming practices, underground water storage and highly water-efficient greenhouses.
Greenhouses like these only use 4 liters of water to produce 1 kilo of tomatoes, as compared to   250 liters in open cultivation in Egypt.

Here, too, it’s important to see which technologies and experiences are best suit  Egyptian circumstances.
The experience gained in the process will certainly benefit all parties.  

Ladies and gentlemen,

To conclude.
There are many solutions and successful approaches at hand.
Not just in the future, but now!
This panel offers us a perfect platform for exchanging experiences.
A springboard to investment in clear, practical actions that will benefit both our countries.
Because making our world safer and better for everyone is a work in progress!

Thank you.