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Speech at the Opening Ceremony of the Sino-Dutch Water Management Seminar
  2017-01-16 10:24  

Speech at the Opening Ceremony of the Sino-Dutch Water Management Seminar 


H.E. Mr. CHEN Lei

Minister of Water Resources of the People’s Republic of China

(September 26th,2016)


Your Excellency Honorable Minister Melanie Schultz van Haegen,

Respected Acting Ambassador Mr. André Driessen,

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and gentlemen,

In this beautiful golden autumn season of gentle brisk wind, the Sino-Dutch Water Management Seminar is convened as scheduled. We gather in Beijing to share knowledge and experiences, exchange policies and actions, and promote deeper, more extensive and higher-level cooperation between the water sectors of our two countries. On behalf of the Ministry of Water Resources of the People’s Republic of China (“MWR”), I would like to extend my warmest welcome to Her Excellency Minister Melanie Schultz van Haegen, Acting Ambassador Mr. André Driessen and all the participants present at the seminar!    

Located at the two continental tips of Asia and Europe, China and the Netherlands enjoy a long history of exchanges and cooperation and have thus become the role model of mutual learning and common prosperity between the oriental and western civilizations. For recent years, in particular, our two countries have made constant efforts to deepen mutual political trust and expand reciprocal cooperation in various aspects. As a result, we have promoted the development of an open, practical and comprehensive partnership with sure footsteps. The nearly 2.5-decade water cooperation between China and the Netherlands has led to a series of important achievements. In particular, His Majesty King Williem-Alexander of the Netherlands has made multiple visits to China, attending international water events in China, and visiting Sino-Dutch water cooperation projects. These have given a strong push to our bilateral water partnership. During his visit to China in 2015, His Majesty held in-depth discussions with President Xi Jinping regarding water cooperation between China and the Netherlands. The two heads of state shared the hope that our two countries will continue to leverage the role of the joint steering committee for better policy dialogues and technical exchanges, more extensive talent trainings and mutual visits of experts, cooperation in flood prevention and disaster reduction, joint improvement of water resources management, and effective bridging of the Sino-Dutch water partnership with the China-EU Water Platform (“CEWP”). Their high regards and explicit requirements for our bilateral partnership serve as an enormous encouragement for the water sectors in both countries and point out the direction for in-depth growth of water cooperation between China and the Netherlands in the new era. The last 25 years has witnessed a thriving bilateral water partnership, ever expansion of cooperation areas, continuous enrichment of cooperation contents, and constant innovation of cooperation models. The two sides have signed the memorandum on bilateral cooperation for three times and established the Sino-Dutch Joint Steering Committee for Water Management. So far the joint committee has convened 13 meetings and guided successful completion of a series of fruitful cooperation, covering numerous areas such as flood management, dike safety, basin-specific integrated water resources management, ecological protection of rivers, and prevention and control of water pollution. Means of cooperation include talent cultivation, project cooperation, and organization of workshops for exchange and communication. The Netherlands has become a major water partner of China, and the Sino-Dutch water cooperation a splendid highlight of Sino-Dutch bilateral cooperation.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Water is the foundation of life, cradle of civilization and key to ecology. With a large population but limited water resources and uneven distribution of water resources in both time and space, plus frequent occurrence of severe flooding, logging, typhoons and draughts, China faces arduous tasks in water saving, water governance, water management, and development of water conservancy. Accordingly, our government attaches great attention to reform and development of the water sector as well as prevention and reduction of disasters. The guidelines for water management in the new era have been laid down as “prioritizing water saving, spatial balance, systematic governance, and simultaneous functioning of both hands (government and market mechanisms)”. The Chinese government has put forward five major ideas of development - innovation, co-ordination, green, opening up and sharing. It regards water management as a critical component in the implementation of these ideas, and assigns water management a primary position in the construction of infrastructure networks. In addition, we are pooling efforts to develop a system for safeguarding water security in line with the requirements of building a well-off society on all fronts.

1. Reinforce regulation and control with the use of the “Three Red Lines” and build a water-saving society on all fronts. We insist on taking available water resources into consideration when defining water demands, planning actions and executing projects. We work hard to put into full play the constraint of the “Three Red Lines”, namely, control total water use, improve water use efficiency, and restrict water pollution in water function zones. In order to transform water use patterns and subsequently force industrial restructuring and economic layout optimization with such transformation, and push forward the development of a circular, green and low-carbon economy, we control water consumption in both intensity and total quantity, sign contracts to manage water saving activities, practice the “Water Efficiency Champions” initiative, promote water saving in industry, agriculture and daily life, and develop/utilize non-conventional water sources with greater vigor.  

2. Practice joint prevention and control to intensify protection of the water environment. In our efforts to accelerate implementation of the Action Plan for Prevention and Control of Water Pollution, we place major rivers and lakes in corresponding water function zones, reinforce management of water function zones by tier and category, verify environment capacity of water bodies with tougher criteria, and stringently regulate pollution discharge outlets along rivers and lakes. To ensure that major headwater areas comply with safety standards, we have defined the areas or scopes for protection of rural drinking water sources and regulated the whole process from water source to water tap. Measures such as pollution source control and pollutant interception, water transfer and diversion, desilting and dredging, and ecological restoration are adopted to enable comprehensive improvement of water environments in both urban and rural areas, and eventually to build a beautiful homeland with smooth rivers, clean water, and lush green banks.   

3. Insist upon green development and carry out in-depth restoration of water ecology. We work hard to firmly establish the concepts of an ecological civilization, namely, respect nature, follow natural rules and protect nature. Specific efforts include the following: cultivate water sources and restore ecology in an comprehensive manner; place tighter control on the usage of ecological space along rivers and lakes; protect the ecology in important conservation areas, headwater cultivation areas and river source areas; toughen integrated control of areas suffering over exploitation of ground water; control water and soil erosion, harness arable slope land, and construct watersheds with clean eco-environments; and build water system linkages between rivers, lakes and reservoirs. All these will help develop an eco-friendly water civilization in both urban and rural areas, and build sponge cities, green towns and beautiful countryside. 

4. Innovate disaster reduction mindsets and effectively prevent water hazards. To ensure safety of people’s lives and security of water supply is our primary task in preventing and fighting floods, relieving draughts and reducing disasters. In this end, we will insist on three practices, namely, combine prevention, response and rescue measures regarding prevention as the essential core, integrate normal disaster reduction and non-normal disaster relief, and ensure rule of law, scientific approaches and public participation in prevention and control of disasters. In addition, we will reinforce the flood control and draught relief responsibility system that at its core holds the administrative heads accountable. Meanwhile, we are working to improve the organizational framework for flood prevention and disaster reduction that is characterized by uniform government commandership, inter-department coordination/interaction, and extensive public participation. Further, the comprehensive role of water works in controlling floods and augmenting benefits will be leveraged to the full to minimize losses caused by floods and draughts. 

5. Consolidate infrastructure to guarantee greater water security in a continuous manner. Along with efforts to promote supply-side restructuring, we are pooling resources to construct a group of strategic water-saving and water-supply works that are critical to the overall national situation, as a strong support to sustainable socioeconomic development. Amongst others, the project for consolidation and improvement of rural drinking water safety has been initiated to raise the ratios of concentrated water supply, tap water prevalence, compliance with water quality standards and guarantee of water supply in rural areas. Meanwhile, efforts are accelerated to reinforce extension and water-saving renovation of large and medium-sized irrigation areas, develop highly-efficient water-saving irrigation at regional scale, and construct small farmland water conservancy facilities, so that the “last one-mile” problem of farmland irrigation will be addressed effectively.   

6. Deepen reform in difficult areas and improve the water governance system. Amongst others, we are reinforcing the duties and responsibilities of basin authorities for integrated management by vigorously promoting the “River Keeper” model for rivers and lakes. To put the roles of the government and the market mechanisms into full play, we increase input from public finance and support from development finance, while encouraging and engaging non-government funds to invest in water projects. Meanwhile, efforts are underway to promote comprehensive reform of water tariff for agriculture, actively nurture the water right trading market, and push forward ownership and management reform of water projects by category. Besides, we uphold rule of law in water governance, continue with scientific management of water resources, improve the water-related legal framework, and speed up technological innovation and ICT development in the water sector, so that water governance systems and water governance capacity will be modernized at a quicker pace.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Conservation of water resources and guarantee of water security require concerted efforts from all countries of the world. It is worthwhile for China and the Netherlands to learn from each other’s concepts, experiences and technologies in flood management, protection of water resources and restoration of water ecology. Availing myself of this opportunity, I would like to put forward 3 proposals on deepening Sino-Dutch water cooperation.

1. Implement the consensus reached by the two heads of state to create a brand new momentum for water cooperation between China and the Netherlands: Relevant efforts may include joint renewal of the two cooperation MOUs, defining key areas and models of Sino-Dutch water cooperation in the new era, and promoting deeper and more comprehensive development of bilateral water exchanges and cooperation.

2. Consolidate the regular bilateral exchange mechanism and boost inter-government dialogue and partnership: The Sino-Dutch Water Management Joint Steering Committee need play its full role to reinforce policy dialogues and actively participate in both CEWP events and the global water governance process. As such, it will set up a good example for international water cooperation. 

3. Innovate contents and approaches of cooperation to promote sharing of experiences and technologies: We encourage water research institutes and businesses of both countries to conduct joint research and development, co-establish joint research centers and laboratories, boost partnership between our experts for exchanges, mutual visits and capacity building, and facilitate shared improvement of water science and technology in both countries.

I am confident that with our joint efforts, the profound friendship between water colleagues of our two countries will take deeper roots and flourish into exuberant foliage, and our practical water partnership will develop steadily into the far future with richer fruits.

Finally, I would like to wish the seminar a great success!