Dutch-Palestinian Academic Cooperation Forum Discusses Water Needs, Priorities

The Birzeit University Institute of Environmental and Water Studies held on February 24-25, 2015 the first Dutch-Palestinian Academic Cooperation Forum on Water (Edco). The conference was dedicated to discussing the problems and needs of the Palestinian water sector and ideas for cooperation.

It was attended by Birzeit University acting president Henry Giacaman, Minister of the Palestinian Water Authority Mazen Ghoneim, representative of the Netherlands Office in the Palestinian territories Peter Mollema and representative of the Maastricht School of Management in the Netherlands Minnie Peter Van Dyke, as well as many key figures in the water and energy sectors and Palestinian universities.

Minister Ghoneim talked about the vital problems facing the water sector in Palestine, particularly the Israeli occupation’s control over water resources, which has led to an inability to import needed equipment and hindered the establishment of water treatment plants, causing sanitation problems. Ghoneim expressed his wish that the conference contribute to the development of a national agenda based on scientific research in order to solve some of these complicated issues.

Giacaman asserted that the idea of establishing the Institute of Environmental and Water Studies goes back to 1994, when a capacity-building program in the water sector was inaugurated along with several Dutch academic institutions. He said that it evolved with the addition of two master’s programs in Science and Water Engineering and Science and Environmental Engineering, conducted under the full supervision of Dutch academic staff.

Institute of Environmental and Water Studies director Maher Abu Madi confirmed that the conference aims to strengthen the relationship between scientific research and decision-making and the priorities and needs of the Palestinian water sector, with a focus on water, energy and private sector participation. "The forum will present 11 joint research projects [over these two days], and provide their findings concerning educational and training needs,” he explained, “and thereby open a door for all participants to discuss opportunities and obstacles pertaining to the water sector."

Mollema told the gathering that the conference aims to identify the challenges facing the water sector, and come out with creative and viable solutions and called on Palestinian water authorities and companies to apply for Dutch sustainable grants for water projects.

Van Dyke addressed the importance of a close partnership with the Institute in generating joint projects between Palestinian universities and their counterparts in the Netherlands.