Nieuws - 15 december 2011

Student triumphs with ‘waterworld' for refugees

Suzanne Overbeek

However unpromising things may have looked in the film Waterworld, Master's student Bastiaan Vermonden (Aquaculture & Marine Resource Management) is convinced that floating cities are the solution to the refugee problem. And the plan won him and his girlfriend Camille Benoit a prestigious French prize at the beginning of December.

Not a bad start to your career: graduate on 23 November and go off to Paris one week later to collect the prestigious Prix Architecture et Technologie et Design de la Mer. The princely sum of 10,000 euros and, of course, a trophy. This happened to fresh Wageningen graduate Bastiaan Vermonden. He and his French girlfriend Camille Benoit won the prize with a plan for housing refugees on the sea. They believe this could solve the political problems around refugee reception. Many countries do want to help but are not prepared to open their borders. The jury praised the creativity of the project in particular, says Bastiaan. "In our plan the residents are entirely self-sufficient; they can grow, harvest and process their own food and generate energy.'

The energy for the floating cities is supplied by OTEC (Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion). Bastiaan: ‘This system uses the relatively warm surface water to convert fluid with a low boiling point into gas that drives a turbine. Cold deep-seawater then converts the gas into a fluid, and the cycle begins all over again. One of the uses of the energy is to pump nutrient-rich water up from the depths of the ocean, in order to fertilize the surface water for food cultivation.'
The Wageningen graduate does see the possible downsides of the plan. 'The biggest danger is from hurricanes. But we expect to be able to anticipate the risks. By evacuating a city in an area where a storm is expected, for example.'