Science - May 13, 2004

Environmental Sciences Group wins order worth a million from Chinese ministry of construction

The Environmental Sciences Group has won the tender for a Chinese project worth around one million euros. The money will be used to train top civil servants from the ministry of construction in waste processing, drinking water provision and wastewater purification.

In the tendering procedure Environmental Sciences was up against competitors such as the Institute for Water Education in Delft and the Van Hall Institute in Leeuwarden (part of Wageningen UR), but the project coordinator Dr Okke Braadbaart is not surprised that Wageningen won the contract: “The Environmental Sciences Group has over five hundred environmental experts, there’s no other institute in Europe that comes near that.” But according to Braadbaart the real stress has not yet started. “We’ve let everyone know how good we are, now we have to deliver the goods.”

Next Monday, about a dozen Chinese top civil servants from the ministry of construction started a three-week intensive course on management for environmental infrastructure, which will be rounded off with a week’s trip through Europe. The participants will be in charge of huge investments in water purification, drinking water facilities and waste processing in ten middle-sized cities in China. If the course goes well, the Environmental Sciences Group is likely to be asked to give similar courses to the civil servants from the municipalities where the investments will be made.

In addition to the course, the Chinese ministry has also asked the Environmental Sciences Group to collaborate in an environmental project, aimed at public and private sector cooperation for drinking water provision and wastewater processing. An additional subsidy has been requested from the European Union for this project. According to Braadbaart there is a big demand for this kind of expertise in China: “The Chinese have little experience of public-private collaboration. Most EU countries have also gone about this in different ways, and the Chinese ministry of construction wants to pluck the fruits of the European experience. They want to know how the government should approach the private sector.” The project will focus on the management of urban infrastructure. “Urban growth in China is between ten and fifteen percent per year, as is economic growth. As a result of these trends the amount of waste produced is enormous and growing rapidly. In addition, the demand for drinking water is high and the amount of waste water is also rising fast,” says Braadbaart.

Guido van Hofwegen

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