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Discussing water management is ‘more important than ever’

Paul Hudson, a professor at Leiden University College, is organising a symposium on water management in the Netherlands and abroad that will take place on 22 March. We asked him what makes water management so important.

The symposium is being held on UN World Water Day. Why is it important to celebrate this?

‘Celebrate isn’t the right word for it. The global water crisis is just too serious for that. However, I do think that 22 March is a good moment to draw people’s attention to water management. That’s why I decided to hold this symposium on World Water Day. It’s more important than ever to discuss this because the quality and quantity of water is under pressure. More and more people around the world are moving to coastal areas, but at the same time these areas are threatened by climate change. And large hydroelectric stations provide green energy, but also affect the ecosystem in a river delta. These kinds of dilemma require an interdisciplinary discussion, and we hope to have that discussion on 22 March.’

What is the main aim of the day?

‘What is most important on the day itself is that we focus on the urgent issues and at the same time bring people together who can help solve these issues. The symposium is a vehicle to bring people from the sector together. This means not only biologists who study an ecosystem and policymakers from the water boards that keep the Netherlands dry, but also anthropologists who study the water rights of indigenous peoples. It is unique that we are doing this in Leiden. Not everyone knows that we in our region have a lot of expertise in this. Water management generally makes people think of technical universities, but our region has a lot to offer too.

Which speaker are you looking forward to most?

‘As an organiser that’s difficult to say. The lectures are very different, but at the same time they are crucial to shedding more light on the complex and comprehensive issues. The day is divided into lectures on environmental issues, policy issues and social issues. In the first part of the day, we will see, for instance, how ecosystems change when dams or irrigation systems are built. In the second part, we will look at how water policy is given shape at the local and regional level, including in the province of South-Holland. And in the third part, we will look across the border at the influence of multinationals on the water security of the local population.’

You are also speaking at the symposium. What is your research about?

‘I research the deltas of long rivers such as the Mississippi. I look at things such as the effect of flooding on the environment and whether humans are able to control such flooding. My research has shown that some measures actually cause more damage: if you build dikes too close to the river, it is very likely that there will be more flooding further upstream.’

Photo: Frans Berkelaar via Flickr
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Come and listen

The symposium will take place from 12.30 to 16.30 in The Hague. Entrance is free, but you must register in advance. The organiser of the symposium is interdisciplinary research group the Water and Society Lab.

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