Ineke Steinhauer: Shoe size and tandems, a Dutch hospital and no planes. A
When you prepare a study tour for a foreign delegation to the Netherlands, be aware of some strange questions. Just when you expect to discuss some important environmental impact issues, they start emailing about bicycles and shoe sizes. This is what happened to a 9-member Ghanaian team, working on an SEA for the oil and gas sector in Ghana. As part of an ongoing coaching programme by the NCEA and the Oil for Development programme in Norway, they were invited to participate in a study tour in the Netherlands and Norway.
We started the study tour with a visit to the Wadden area where gas exploitation tries to find a balance with nature conservation. This area in the north of Holland, a Ramsar site with a wide biodiversity, bird breeding areas and tidal mudflats, also contains gas fields. After many years of discussions, public participation and a number of court cases, gas exploration and exploitation could finally start, assisted by an independent monitoring committee to check whether the exploration would not cause any harm to the Wadden Sea. (see also article Natural Gas production in the Wadden area: evaluation an essential component of Environmental Assessment)
On the isle of Ameland we visited the gas plant of the Netherlands Oil Company (NAM). Since this plant could only be reached by bycicles and we were not sure what the cycling experiences of the team members was, we decided to rent tandems (bicycle designed for two riders, on which one rider sits behind the other ). We were all impressed with the plant. The operational process aswell as information on adhering to environmental norms/standards gave interesting insights into Dutch practice. After the visit, we added a little ‘flavor’ to the site seeing by planning a guided mudflat-hiking tour. In the Wadden area, during low tide, it is possible to hike from the mainland to one of the isles in the Wadden Sea (mudflat hiking). An exciting experience since the water may rise when walking on the mudflats. For this walk however walking boots are required and need to be reserved in advance….so you need to know shoe sizes in advance as well.. .
NAM’s headquarters are located in Assen where we stopped by the next day. Followed by a tour to the oil exploitation site in Schoonebeek.
Expecting to take it a bit easier after two intense days, we started the third day with presentations from the NCEA staff in Utrecht. This rather relaxed morning got an aprupt end when on our way to lunch one of the team members fainted and collapsed. Fortunately everything turned out to be okay after a thorough examination in the hospital. Time to leave the Netherlands we thought….but the KLM called that the evening flight to Norway had been cancelled because of bad weather! The good spirited Ghanaians took it all very well, but we do wonder whether they will ever accept an invitation for a study tour to the Netherlands again!
published: 31-10-2011 last edited: 15-11-2011 8:45:57
Bobbi Schijf: Bonding over hail storms in Pakistan
Bobbi Schijf: Bonding over hail storms in Pakistan
There is nothing like sharing a scary experience to bond a team of people. If this is true, then my Pakistani colleagues and I can look forward to close working relations in the next few years. Last June I was on the road to Islamabad, when my party got caught in a freak hailstorm.
We were returning from a successful EIA mapping workshop in Lahore, in which we had dissected the performance of EIA in the province of Punjab, together with a wide range of stakeholders. The workshop results serve to focus the activities of the National Programme for Impact Assessment (the NIAP), that started earlier this year. The NIAP is undertaken by key government agencies, together with IUCN Pakistan, and is funded by the Netherlands Embassy.
I was in a car with two experts from IUCN, and their driver, when the sky turned an unexpected pale yellow, and sudden windgusts brought our vehicle to a stop. Directly after, hail stones the size of golf balls pummeled the car, knocking a sideview mirror clean off, smashing the rear window and pockmarking the cars exterior. When the sky had run out of ammunition we emerged into a surreal battered landscape littered with white chunks of ice.
Of course, Pakistan has seen much more serious precipitation since then, resulting in a flooding disaster that has affected millions. The NIAP Programme is now all the more urgent, because impact assessment can make a contribution to Pakistan’s ability to manage flooding. In Pakistan, as in many other places, human activities have exacerbated the severity of the effects of extreme weather. Unsuitable irrigation schemes and deforestation, for example, increase the risk of flooding. These are impacts which can be predicted in future EIAs and SEA, and then, hopefully, avoided. My Pakistani colleagues tell me they are doing fine and have gone back to work, and I look forward to joining them soon.
published: 30-9-2010 last edited: 1-11-2011 16:05:49