Islamabad - Experts of the Dutch Disaster Risk Reduction team have said hat certification of embankments using Dutch know-how will not only allow a more targeted response, but it will also enable real estate development in the area.

During a roundtable discussion at the Ministry of Planning here Wednesday, a team of world-class water experts from the Netherlands presented their first findings on how to anticipate and respond better to the floods that have tormented Pakistan and its people in recent years. The Dutch Disaster Risk Reduction team, invited by the government of Pakistan and the government of Punjab and facilitated by the Netherlands Embassy in Islamabad, welcomed the discussion and suggestions on their first findings from the involved ministries, academia and societal organisations - before finalising their report suggesting smart solutions for improving Pakistan’s response to the flood problem. Ehsan Iqbal, Federal Minister of Planning, stated “Disaster risk reduction and flood mitigation are of high priority for the Government of Pakistan. The high level floods of recent years have cost many innocent lives and economic damage amounting hundreds of billion rupees.  Dr Jos de Sonneville, a recognised authority on integrated water management and leader of the team from the Netherlands, was impressed and encouraged by the efforts already undertaken by Pakistan’s authorities.

He said, “The scale of Pakistan’s water and irrigation infrastructure, their operational management and the recent improvements in flood damage response are very impressive indeed. I was also glad to note the sense of urgency - both on the governmental level and in society at large.”

He said, “I am hopeful that Dutch expertise from both the public and private water sector can help Pakistan to move from relief to security. To that effect, the team have identified smart solutions - often engaging entrepreneurial space - that they feel merit further development.”  Dr Frank Van Steenbergen, a water resource specialist with 25 years of experience in Pakistan suggested that floods could be turned into an economic boon if the waters are wisely and timely routed to be harnessed for irrigation and groundwater recharge. And using the right flood modelling, insurance companies can anticipate risks, invest in their reduction and assume a role in relief and damage compensation.

Netherlands Ambassador Marcel de Vink was excited about the new paradigm offered by the water experts from his country. He said, “Such proactive measures will save lives, prevent damage - and attract investment.”

He also commended the high level of political support, saying that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had personally requested this mission in a conversation with the Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte.

Once finalised, the Dutch water team will submit their report to the Government of Pakistan and the Government of Punjab. If the team’s vision and suggestions are approved, the identified solutions can be explored further in cooperation with the public and private water sector of the Netherlands.