Dutch connection in the Gulf
Uniting water, energy & food
Sharing our expertise at Expo 2020 Dubai
There are around 4000 ‘polders’ in The Netherlands. These low-lying tracts of land are enclosed by dykes; an artificial hydrological construction that creates more land to live and farm. These polders are an ingenious system to protect our land from flooding. We’ve been doing this since the 16th century.
The Netherlands is quite literally a product of its environment; 25% of the country lies below sealevel, up to 6,76 metres deep. We basically live on the sea-floor. We used to keep the land ‘dry’ by using windmills to pump water from the soil. Innovation was a necessity and the basis of our ingenuity.
In 1953 the Netherlands flooded. Our dikes weren’t strong enough to protect the land from the water. 1836 people died. 100,000 people lost everything. It was the largest natural disaster in the history of The Netherlands.
After the flood it was decided that The Netherlands needed a sustainable solution to defend the land from the sea. The project was finally finished in 1997. To this day, the Delta Works still receives a lot of international acclaim. The American Society of Civil Engineers declared the Delta Works one of the seven modern world wonders.
Since 2015 the ‘Oosterscheldekering’ – a part of the Delta Works – generates green energy. Using a system that interacts with the tides, making it the largest tidal energy project in the Netherlands and the largest commercial tidal installation in the world.
Countless Dutch companies have collaborated to bring the Delta Works to life.
You’ve probably heard about Palm Jumeirah and Deira Island: two artificial islands off the coast of Dubai. The Dutch know a thing or two about managing water and land, so it’s no surprise they were involved in this massive project.
The islands were created using a process called land reclamation. This was done by dredging sand from the Persian and Arabian Gulfs. The sand was then sprayed and ‘vibro-compacted’ into shape using GPS technology for precision. And finally surrounded by millions of tons of rock for protection.
The creation of Palm Jumeirah was Dutch company Van Oord’s first showpiece in Dubai. Since then, Van Oord has become a crucial partner in the region, challenging the boundaries of innovation.
The Dutch wouldn’t be the Dutch if they didn’t choose to do things their own way. The Dutch pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai is more of a biotope than a building. This circular climate installation, developed collaboratively by a team of four architecture and engineering firms, will embody the theme of the Netherlands’ multi-year campaign in the Gulf region. This campaign – Dutch Dubai – focuses on connections on every level.
We all know that water, energy and food can’t exist without each other. Or to put it another way: if these sectors work together in the right way, magic can happen. As the second-largest exporter of agricultural products in the world, we know what this kind of intersectoral collaboration can bring a country and, more importantly, its people. Even in a desert climate, we can create a system where inhabitants can produce their own water, energy and food. Our unique pavilion, which is a circular climate installation offering an interactive experience, is a reflection of this kind of partnership.
To minimise the footprint of our interactive ecosystem, the pavilion will be built with local resources and locally rented building materials. The interior will also include some rented elements. Once Expo 2020 Dubai is over, all materials will be re-purposed or returned to parties in the region.
Becoming more self-sustaining is important with a world population that keeps on growing. At the same time, resources are becoming more fragile and scarce. Global issues such as water scarcity, food security and rising demand for energy have a particularly serious impact on the Middle East. Gulf countries tend to consume more water and energy per capita than many other parts of the world, and the majority of the region’s food is imported. Expo 2020 Dubai offers an exciting opportunity to drive positive change. This is where the Netherlands is eager to contribute. Dutch innovation, knowledge and experience can play a positive role in transformation. Not only in the Gulf, but around the world.
Dubai Dutch is all about making meaningful connections. When it comes to connecting businesses, knowledge institutions, governments and social organisations, the Dutch pavilion will function as an interactive installation. It will become a meeting point and networking hub for everyone at Expo 2020 Dubai: a place to connect with visitors from all over the world who are keen to experience something new.
The consortium behind the Dutch Dubai Biotope consists of four partners: V8 Architects, Expomobilia, Kossmann.deJong and Witteveen+Bos. All of them have experience and networks in the Gulf region. To pave the way for new generations, the consortium is working with multiple Dutch innovative start-ups and companies, in order to provide them with the platform they deserve.
The Afsluitdijk was built in the 1930’s. This huge wall splits the Wadden Sea and protects The Netherlands from flooding. It has become a symbolic icon of our fight against water. The Afsluitdijk is ready for renewal; it’s time to add sustainable energy generation to its functionality.
The Blue Energy Afsluitdijk is a unique project: a new way to generate energy from the difference in salt concentrations of salt and fresh water.
This technique has been around for years, but has never been tested in a natural environment. The next step is to create a demonstration installation by 2020. This project will provide enough energy for 500,000 households. The Dutch company REDstack is responsible for bringing this technology to the market.
Almost two decades ago, the Dutch made a national commitment to sustainable agriculture under the rallying cry ‘Twice as much food using half as many resources’.
Since the year 2000, farmers have reduced dependence on water for key crops by as much as 90 percent. Also, they’ve almost completely eliminated the use of chemical pesticides on plants in greenhouses. Can you imagine that?
Another interesting fact is that since 2009 Dutch poultry and livestock producers have cut their use of antibiotics by as much as 60 percent.
The Netherlands is a small, densely populated country, with more than 1300 inhabitants per square mile. The soil is bereft of almost every resource long thought to be necessary for large-scale agriculture. However, The Netherlands is the globe’s number two exporter of food (as measured by value), second only to the United States, which has 270 times more landmass.
Seen from the air, our country resembles no other major food producer - a fragmented patchwork of intensely cultivated fields, most of them tiny by agribusiness standards, punctuated by bustling cities and suburbs. More than half our nation’s land area is used for agriculture and horticulture. In the country’s principal farming regions, there are almost no potato crops, no greenhouses, no livestock out of sight of skyscrapers, manufacturing plants, and urban sprawl.
How do we stay on top of our game? By investing in innovation and continuous collaborations with knowledge institutions, governments and businesses.
Approximately 33% of all food produced worldwide is wasted each year. In Dubai, food waste accounts for 55% of all waste. 6,7% of the planet’s green house gas emissions come directly from food waste. In short, if food waste was a country, it would be the third largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world. How can we turn these facts into something positive?
A young Dutch company - The Waste Transformers - has been busy tackling this problem for quite some time. Their technological advances are shaping the future of how water, energy and food interact. They have developed a highly innovative, plug-and-play container system. This restores the valuable nutrient loop in cities, by transforming organic waste into value on-site. Meaning no more transportation and no more CO2.
This system generates green energy in the form of electricity and heat. It is then returned to the original location of the waste. This reduces handling fees for organic waste streams considerably. The excess is transformed into a nutrient rich fertilizer, which is used to grow new crops.
The Waste Transformers are also pioneering new systems that will allow the dry matter to be up-cycled into paper and textiles. This modular and scalable system is made up of 20 foot shipping containers. The system fits in two and a half parking spaces.
They have empowered local waste producers (hotels, universities, neighborhoods, food production companies, harbors and wholesalers) to transform their own organic waste streams into a commodity, simply by placing a Waste Transformer on their own site.
The Waste Transformers have partnered with the world famous OMA (Organisation for Metropolitan Architecture), and aim to launch their ‘OMA line’ which will premier at Expo 2020 Dubai.
The Expo 2020 Dubai will take place from October 2020 until April 2021. It will be the first world expo in the MENA & SA (Middle East and North Africa & South Asia) and over 200 countries will be represented. Upwards of 20 to 25 million visitors are expected.
The central theme for the expo is ‘Connecting minds, creating the future’. Dubai wants to provide a platform to foster creativity, innovation and collaboration globally; triggering new ways of thinking for long-term impact in the Middle East, Africa, South Asia and the wider world. This is underpinned by three interconnected themes: opportunity, mobility, and sustainability.
The expo site is divided by these three themes. The Netherlands is honored to take part in the sustainability district, a perfect fit for our expertise.
The Dutch participation at Expo 2020 Dubai will be a starting point for new economical, technological and political partnerships, on the edge of innovation and sustainability. Weather it’s about people, knowledge or ideas: connection is leading in everything we do.
That is why we, the Dutch, will bring people, knowledge and technology together in Dubai for the greater good. The pavilion can be seen as our meeting point: a platform for Dutch organisations who want to get in touch with the Middle East, Africa, South Asia and the rest of the world.
Doing business, sharing knowledge or creating a network, the Dutch government invites organisations to have an active role. Together we will create a showcase of our expertise in the area of water, energy and food.
Curious to know more?
In September 2015, the UN committed to 17 Sustainable Development Goals to fight poverty and support sustainable development. The majority of these goals are directly related to the use of scarce resources such as water, energy and food.
The Dutch have a long history with water, energy and food. Our relationships with other countries is a lot like our relationships with these natural elements; it’s about interconnection, mutual respect and give and take. For many centuries, these elements have formed the foundation on which our country has been built.
We look forward to sharing our specialised knowledge with the rest of the world, to ensure a more sustainable future. Just as there can be no food without water and energy, our Dutch innovation wouldn’t exist without international collaborations with universities, governments and businesses. We believe that teamwork leads to the most effective solutions.
In 2020 we’re reaching out to the Gulf. Bringing our expertise and experience with us, making Dutch Dubai the basis for all future relations in the region.
Would you like to take part or just want to know more?
Open to explore new opportunities in the field of water, energy & food? Ready to present yourself at the expo? Or do you have any questions?