The Netherlands – More than half of The Netherlands was once covered by water until residents drained the and for settlement and agriculture through a sophisticated system of dams and the country's now-iconic windmills. However, this means that despite the nation's pastoral appearance, untamed nature is in short supply.
The Netherlands, is seems, is busy developing clean technologies and branding itself a green pioneer, and its government is cooperating with Israel on projects relating to water, agricultural produce, energy, and innovation.
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This week, businesspeople and public figures from Holland were in Israel for a conference hosted by Holland's finance minister that focused mainly on issues related to natural gas, which has become a hot topic for Israel with the recent discovery of large offshore resources.
Holland, meanwhile, is the biggest exporter of natural gas in Europe, but a large part of its gas reserves have already been depleted.
A map of Holland's gas resources (TNO)
Some 40% of the Netherlands' energy production depends on natural gas. Rene Peters, director of gas technologies for Holland's TNO company, says that his firm is already preparing for the days the nation's gas supplies dwindle and is concentrating on offshore gas production and increased efficiency.
Peters recommends that Israel study Holland's 50-year history of gas production. Holland, he says, can help Israel develop infrastructure, laws, and efficiency measures that will allow the government to make the most of a relatively new resource.
TNO was only one of 16 gas or gas-related companies that attended the Israeli conference, hoping for future cooperation.
But Dutch environmental innovation goes beyond its natural gas. Journalists were invited to tour some of the country's other green technologies. The Reinier de Graaf Hospital in Delft, for example, features a facility called Pharmafilter that recycles everything – medicine, blood tests, food remains, plastic, and more.
Pharmafilter - demo clip
The tour also visited farms. Holland's Minister of Economy, Agriculture and Innovation Henk Bleker described the Golden Triangle – the strong cooperation that exists between the government, companies, and research institutions.
New technologies include BLGG's systems of testing soil and providing feedback to farmers and innovative energy-saving greenhouses operated by solar panels that produce 70 kilograms of tomatoes from a single cube of water.
70 kg. of tomatoes from 1 cube of water (Photo: Billie Frenkel)
Green construction is also making headway in Holland. Amsterdam's new municipal library is an example of this, requiring 40% less energy and producing 65% less greenhouse gas than other similar structures.
But the Netherland's biggest environmental challenge was the port of Rotterdam – the entryway to northwest Europe – that occupies 40 kilometers and employs some 90,000 workers.
A canal at the Rotterdam port (Photo: Billie Frenkel)
Minco van Heezen, who led the tour of the port, told reporters about a three-decade-long project to clean the River Rhine, which was severely polluted in the 1970s. The port also features a high wall constructed of recycled building materials.
The wall blocks the view of the pastoral countryside beyond, but it can't block air pollution. According to Van Heezen, the problem of coal dust has been solved, but efforts are still being made to deal with carbon dioxide. "We have pushed and funded projects to trade carbon dioxide with the intent of using it to grow plants or carbonate drinks, but it will take time," he said.
The writer was a guest of the Dutch government.