Global trends including population growth, urbanisation and climate change are increasingly putting scarce water resources under pressure, and better water services are urgently needed around the world. An expanding network of firms and organisations within the Finnish water sector aims to help meet this demand.
The Finnish Water Forum brings together public and private sector players working with all kinds of water-related issues and technologies, with an emphasis on sustainability and environmental protection. Members of the forum include research institutes, government agencies and many small and medium-sized firms, as well as major corporate names like Kemira, Pöyry and Fortum.
“So far we’ve largely been mapping out the strengths of our members to identify areas where we can contribute the most value,” says the Finnish Water Forum’s managing director Katri Mehtonen.
As a country with a long history of both utilising and protecting its own famously numerous lakes and rivers, Finland has built up plenty of experience in fields including water purification, wastewater treatment, integrated water resources management and administrative practices governing the use of water. Finnish expertise on the monitoring, measuring and modelling of flows and water quality in river systems and groundwater reserves is also highly respected.
Another goal of the forum is to help Finnish universities, research institutes and nongovernmental organisations build productive partnerships in far-flung regions, with an emphasis on joint learning.
Working around the world
“Through the forum’s workshops we’ve also been identifying the geographical regions where we can contribute most,” adds Mehtonen.
One region where Finnish experts have already been working is the Mekong River Basin in Southeast Asia. Finnish experts have widely contributed to the work of the international Mekong River Commission promoting sustainable water management through the region.
Water and development specialists from Aalto University and their local partners have been building a better understanding of the unique flood pulse system of Cambodia’s Tonle Sap Lake, which is crucial for local livelihoods and food security. Important considerations include the possible impacts on the lake of climate change and hydropower developments.
Shared by many countries, the Nile Basin is another region where water use needs to be harmonised through international cooperation, since the livelihoods of millions of people depend on the river. Finnish experts have particularly supported the efforts of the Eastern Nile Technical Regional Office (ENTRO) to enhance watershed management in Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt.
The Finnish water sector is also supporting water management schemes in Eastern Europe, the South Caucasus and Central Asia through the wide-ranging FinWater WEI programme, whose themes include water and health, dam safety, and water monitoring and assessment.
Finding funding for vital water projects
The Finnish Water Forum does not set up projects itself, but aims to facilitate the fruitful formation of consortiums and public private partnerships, and to serve as a point of access for potential clients from around the world.
“Finland’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs [full disclosure: ThisisFINLAND is produced at the Ministry] finances development cooperation projects related to water resources and water services in various regions, and our members can form consortiums and compete with international bidders for involvement in such schemes,” explains Mehtonen.
“But we’re also building contacts with various international financial institutions who fund water projects in developing countries, aiming to match up our technology providers with suitable financing wherever Finnish actors can together make a valuable contribution.”
The Finnish Water Forum also operates under the wider Cleantech Finland brand, which has been set up to promote Finnish expertise in all kinds of environmental technologies.
By Fran Weaver, October 2010