DHI, an independent, consulting and research organisation from Denmark spanning the globe belongs to those that do not make much noise but nevertheless play instrumental roles within business and society, in this case benefiting the protection of our environment – especially when it comes to water and coastal areas.
With its largest overseas office located in Singapore and by now a hub for the region, DHI is now moving in, as among the first companies, at the new CleanTech Park near Nanyang Technological University (NTU) which aims to be a “showcase for innovative, sustainable solutions for tropical urban settings”.
Belonging to the clean technology sector, the official office start-up in 2003 was preceded by several large engagements in Singapore.
DHI describes the world’s coasts as diverse dynamic morphological systems encompassing spectacular arrays of windswept beaches, tidal inlets, rocky coasts and coral reefs.
“Their beauty and importance are second to one and are considered one of our favourite destinations.”
At the same time there is ever-increasing pressure on the coasts from the competing needs of commercial, recreational and residential interests, not least in Singapore where land is scarce. Careful planning and comprehensive assessment is required to preserve these complex coastal dynamics and to safeguard our magnificent coasts for future generations, writes the Danish firm.
If not before, Singapore’s government got alerted to the consequences of NOT doing this when it was sued by Malaysia in an international tribunal for causing negative environmental impact on Malaysian shores, corals, mangroves etc.
Then, DHI was called in as independent reviewer and to set up a study to actually document and quantify the status of the waters, explains Peter Rasch at DHI Water & Environment.
Support systems for environmental protection
DHI are experts within environmental impact and monitoring management; coastal, port engineering; and water resources management etc. so they have become increasingly important for Singapore, a country which is expanding its land and which has among the busiest ports in the world.
Coastal structures, ports and terminals and environmental impact assessment are all covered. Pollution control of industry and wastewater is one area where they assist, for example when the ships need to clean their ballast water.
How they go about this is to combine physical and numerical modelling approaches with field data and coming up with support systems to achieve innovative and cost-effective solutions.
”It’s basically a tool where decision-makers can have all this information digested into a web site and shape their decisions in a simple way.”
DHI has exported the concept of monitoring during construction, which was successfully used for instance during the construction of the bridge between Sweden and Denmark.
A management plan is extended so you also monitor how well you are minimizing the impact and quantify it in an independent way, where the sea is our focus, says Peter.
“We’ve been working with the zero impact solution for some years here now and put in more technologies, collaboration and understanding to a level that we are actually exporting it back to Denmark for the planned link being planned between Denmark and Germany,” he adds.
A core business is obviously that Singapore is reclaiming land and building on it.
“Singapore has grown 25 per cent in last 20 years, so they are making new land on the outskirts of Singapore.”
And a lot of planning, design and construction of ports and marine structures as well as marine operations take place. Then significant consideration must go into safe and efficient operations and minimal environmental impact.
Singapore improved thanks to DHI
It is fair to say the non-profit company has played an instrumental role for Singapore to improve its environmental protection efforts.
“Definitely, no doubt about it! We work very closely with the government doing the big developments. And because our objective is to train we run courses for them and teach them how to scrutinize the reports that we and other consultants make, so I’d say that yes their level has definitely improved.”
In late 2007 the DHI-NTU Water & Environment Research Centre and Education Hub was jointly established with Nanyang Technological University (NTU) Singapore with the purpose to work towards development of environmentally friendly solutions, tools and technologies to support a sustainable ecology. Training of professionals is included.
“It comes back to the purpose with DHI to bring knowledge within the fields of water and environment; people are constructing anyway so let’s do it in a way working with nature rather than against. Thus we’re bringing in physics and chemistry into this world of guys with big machines. In Europe it’s of course well established with all these requirements when you build something that you have to document. But in Asia you don’t have that. The tolerance limits set up by government agencies where none when we first came there.”
Within climate change the willingness within businesses to take this into account is not really there yet, however there is recognition, thinks Peter.
“It’s definitely something they want to consider but doing it simply. Contractors don’t really want to pay. But nobody has any doubts any more that it’s coming.”
It will definitely become increasingly important for DHI.
“There is something happening to the world. We also see ourselves sitting in-between there. You have the global climate change models forecasting the next hundred years. But that’s on a very broad-scale. When you try to downscale what’s going to happen in a coastal town, then you need to have the knowledge that we have about the local coast, and combine with a climate change scenario.”