Water's role in a developing country's journey to sustainability

Lindsey: So how do you think the challenges that you're talking about, in terms of institutional inertia, need for collaboration, and value proposition, translate into the developing context?



Tony: To be honest, I think the developing context is actually a little bit easier to think across all of those things, they're more open to new ideas and especially learning from developed countries. They're quite willing to say, "OK, what do you know, and how can you help us?" I don't think I would class China as a developing country, but it's sort of somewhere in between developing and developed. Even so, going in there, they've got some very highly skilled engineering companies, and engineering staff. But they've never heard of this thinking across different elements of a water cycle. So when you start talking to them, it's, you can see the lights coming on. And with some of those countries, China in particular, if they want to do something, they do it.


Lindsey: I was just going to ask you, in terms of what opportunity might exist within the developing context, where it sounds like some of the institutional barriers might be slightly different. Is there stuff that you've seen there that we could learn from, likewise?



Tony: The really interesting issue that I've been thinking quite a bit about lately is, how do we actually provide better enablement for our government agencies to make changes? What's a better way? The current adversarial regime in Australia that surrounds a lot of infrastructure development, where there's so many approvals, there's so much box-ticking that needs to occur before you can try something different, how do we actually build a more enabling paradigm for innovation? Because we really stifle innovation in this country. Every time we see an innovation, it gets swamped by all of the approval processes, all the regulatory processes. And I'm not knocking those processes, I think they're there for a reason, but let's find ways to help innovative technologies be able to make a, in the way of the cleanleap, without being tethered by all of this other stuff.


Lindsey: What do you see as some of the integrated urban water trends that emerging nations are embracing now?



Tony: The other thing that I'm seeing quite a bit in China in particular is, they're embracing natural systems like green roofs. Green roofs are being seen as really quite important to the development of new cities. And also putting water into the landscape. Most of the new developments that I see occurring that they're planning in China will have water in the landscape in some fashion, and providing better connections to those landscapes, I think, is really important.


Lindsey: Do you think there are some places that you've seen where it's too late for a cleanleap, that they've missed the opportunity, or do you think it's still possible?



Tony: I think it's possible anywhere. When I go to the UK and think, "Here's a country that's destroyed its environment over 10,000 years, but has managed to still function and is starting to restore those systems." It's funny, somebody in China asked me, "What do you think about our air quality, it's terrible," but I think you can fix it. And they said, "Oh, no, no, you can't fix it," and I said, "Look at London. London in the 50's was smog every day." And they have clean air now. So, you know, you can do it too. It's just a matter of making the change. And understanding that this is something you're willing to change.


Lindsey: Even the water quality in the Thames is an area where they've made huge progress.



Tony:Yeah, the Thames is a really good example, because that was a sewer, but now they've got salmon, and trout, moving upstream again. Same with the Rhine and the Danube.  These were the sewers of Europe, and now they've been restored to the point where the ecosystem is beginning to function again. So, as long as we understand that that ecosystem is important to us, and the services it provides are something that we should value, and put into our economic arguments, then I think it would make a lot more sense.

Lindsey: Thanks for your time.




Tony:It’s been a real pleasure speaking with you.