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The European Union will step up its cooperation with China on water management under a joint declaration signed by the two parties, on 14 March in Marseilles, outside the World Water Forum. The agreement setting up the China-Europe Water Platform (CEWP) was signed on behalf of the EU and Croatia by Danish Environment Minister Ida Auken and on behalf of China by Water Resources Minister Chen Lei. It aims to stimulate exchange of expertise, technologies and training. After obtaining the required legal approvals, this joint declaration is expected to be raised to the status of a memorandum of understanding (MoU), which will expand its scope.

China has adopted a water development plan that entails investments of some 470 billion over ten years. Europe and its companies, which China sees as having a "solid lead" in the sector, could participate extensively. This collaboration, states the Danish EU Presidency, "could result in a significant increase in European exports of green' technologies and the creation of many jobs". Minister Chen observed that the EU and China "have built a strong strategic partnership in the course of 36 years of diplomatic relations. I hope that both parties will benefit from it fully, express their opinions freely, exchange ideas and experience and agree to develop and promote this cooperation".

The agreement resides on the principles of reciprocity' and mutual benefit' and has the political support of the European Water Initiative (EUWI). The platform will strive to involve all stakeholders - competent government agencies, basin water management bodies, research institutes, municipalities, non-governmental organisations and the public and private sectors - and will be managed jointly by a European secretariat based in one of the EU member states and a Chinese secretariat to be set up at the Chinese Ministry of Water Resources.

Under the agreement, the CEWP's activities can include political dialogue, joint research projects and industrial projects financed by the two parties. China has serious water problems in terms of availability of the resource: the Three Gorges dam, apart from hydroelectricity generation, serves to transfer water from the South to the North and to supply the city of Beijing. China also has to cope with a serious situation in terms of water pollution, treatment of waste water and distribution infrastructures, including the installation or renewal of supply pipes in urban centres, which are often nearly 100 years old. The market is tremendous. Companies like Veolia, Suez and EDF (all of France) have been present on this market for over a decade.

But China also seeks upstream expertise in the environmental sphere: definition of water indicators (quantity and quality) and development of management tools and standards. EU water legislation, which cannot necessarily be transposed as such, nevertheless constitutes a good starting point for the transfer of know-how.

China invested CNY345.2 billion (US$54.75 billion) in water conservation last year: the central government invested CNY114.1 billion, a 71.2% increase in one year, while local governments poured a record CNY231.1 billion into conservation projects. These investments have given another 20.55 million people in drought-stricken regions access to drinking water along with 63.98 million inhabitants of rural regions, said Chen. He added that part of the investments went to reservoir consolidation works, irrigation of farm land and water conservation infrastructures.
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Publication:Europe Environment
Geographic Code:9CHIN
Date:Mar 30, 2012

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