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In the middle of June 2017, the attention of the European level decision-makers turned to Berlin, Germany, where the 8th Annual Forum of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region took place.

The Forum that was organized on 13–14 June 2017 was mainly focused on the notion of connectivity. The presenters as well as participants highlighted the need for the development of cooperation and the necessity to intensify contacts grounded by strong trust in the region.

The Forum agenda featured extensive parallel sessions throughout both days of the programme. Altogether, the event introduced almost 30 different subjects that require recognition and international cooperation: from particular aspects in transport, shipping, or energy to wider connections with macro-regional strategies, cross-border cooperation and preparing the Baltic Sea Region for the future.

Smart water sector

The IWAMA as a EUSBSR flagship project held a seminar “Smart water sector” focused on capacity building and cross-border cooperation approaching them as contributing factors for the successful technology transfer in the water sector.

The seminar consisted of expert presentations and a discussion round among the panelists. Various groups working in the water field joined the session: from European level organizations to national knowledge centres and specific water companies and associations. The session was moderated by the Lead Partner of the IWAMA project – the UBC Sustainable Cities Commission.

Invited speakers provided various perspectives on the importance of the capacity development in water sector. Thus, among other topics, Mirosław Lewandowski from SAUR Neptun Gdańsk introduced the Company´s strategy for employee´s skills and competence development. The SAUR Group is represented in several countries in Europe, Asia, Africa and North America, and has a wide experience with managing water resources. Following the theme of the session, SAUR Neptun Gdańsk offered an outlook of their Training Centre providing employee regular learning and coaching in multiple forms. Mr. Lewandowski, the manager at the company, emphasized that the programme for the training course is prepared every year depending on the current needs of operators.

 

Always read analysis, survey reports.

Ask your team about their expectations.

Do your best to make your employees happy.

Mirosław Lewandowski, Manager at SAUR Neptun Gdańsk

 

Another perspective was presented by the Baltic University Programme, which headquarters are located in Åbo Akademi in Turku, but which spreads as a network among more than 200 universities and institutions in the Baltic Sea Region. Paula Lindroos, the director of the programme, highlighted the importance of lifelong learning at all levels of education and gave examples on how it can be organized in the context of the water management.

The technical side of the smart water sector was approached by Stefan Rettig, the researcher in the Technical University of Berlin. Starting with challenges the Baltic Sea is facing, and going through the examples of the wastewater management, Mr. Rettig led to the growing need of having educationally updated personnel that could efficiently operate smart technologies. One of the most important forces in educating WWT personnel is considered to be national water associations providing trainings for their members.

The session “Smart water sector” highlighted several subjects crucial to the efficient and harmonious water management. Naturally, it simultaneously raised many questions and discussions on the exact approach to developing this sphere according to the current needs and interests of the personnel and managing structures as well optimal use of existing smart technologies. In our work throughout the IWAMA project, we take into account various perspectives in reaching the smart water management to deliver most efficient results.

Cooperation with Russia

Apart from the titular IWAMA session, the IWAMA project representatives were invited to contribute to the discussion of cooperating with Northwest-Russia Regions.

IWAMA actively supports the inclusion of the Baltic Sea Region actors outside of the Interreg Programme area into regional affairs. Our project focuses on improving the wastewater management that should eventually result in the better state of the Baltic Sea. The regional environment is not something that can be bounded with the borders: it affects and is being affected by every country around the sea. While the scope of IWAMA is limited to the EU countries of BSR, the project attempts to involve actors from Russian coastal regions (St. Petersburg/Leningrad Oblast and Kaliningrad Oblast) and those Belarus cities that fall into the Baltic Sea catchment area. As associated partners of IWAMA, the actors from these regions can support the dissemination of information concerning the smart wastewater management among their stakeholders and target groups.

We are glad to confirm that these actors actively participate in various project activities, from technical (e.g. contributing to the key figure collection for compiling the benchmark of the WWTP performance in BSR) to capacity developing. For the latter, we approach Russian partners from environmental centres as established national knowledge-based communities that can further improve their lifelong learning practices through the materials delivered in the project’s scope and practices learned from other water experts.

 

We would like to once more sincerely thank the organizers of the Annual Forum, and the panelists and participants of the IWAMA project sessions. Let us work together to improve existing practices in the water management field!