Book Review: Dredging For Sustainable Infrastructure

‘Dredging for Sustainable Infrastructure’ (Credit: CEDA & IADC)
‘Dredging for Sustainable Infrastructure’ (Credit: CEDA & IADC)

Last week, I attended the last sessions of the ‘Dredging for Sustainable Infrastructure’ course, jointly organised by CEDA1 and IADC2. This course is intended to quickly absorb the contents of the book of the same name3 and have a hands on experience of the novel methodology proposed. The book has been written by many different people as members of the participating organisations. As such, it is the condensed knowledge and ideas of the dredging community on a modern approach to infrastructure projects. Although there is a straightforward structure in the book, the publishers initiated courses as an introduction to the book.

Structure of the book (Credit: CEDA & IADC)
Structure of the book (Credit: CEDA & IADC)

As Covid-19 swept across Europe and thwarted the intended live course days, the sessions were postponed and eventually held online. The presenters, Erik van Eekelen, Thomas Vijverberg and Mark Lee did a good job of introducing us to the book and supervise us in the break out working groups. The central storyline of the working groups was the harbour expansion of the fictional port of Tomigo in the fairy land of Quandany. Each of the participants was assigned a role to represent the consultant, the fishing community, the nature conservancy organisations, the power plant etc. A revelation for me from this interaction is how easy you are inclined to be egocentric in the defence of your interests. With just a little more attention to the other interests, there might be much better opportunities for yourself and for the whole of the project.

New harbour basin development at the port of Tomigo (Credit: CEDA & IADC)
New harbour basin development at the port of Tomigo (Credit: CEDA & IADC)

The incentive to produce a book on this novel approach in dredging projects was the UN initiative to launch 17 Sustainable Development Goals4 and the book addresses most of these goals. If we can truly lift the proposed working procedures into an industry standard or even a social mentality, this will be a paradigm shift from where the project was the centre of attention to: ‘Where can nature and society benefit from an economic requirement?’ The next step will be from philosophy to action.

United Nations ‘Sustainable Development Goals (Credit: United Nations)
United Nations ‘Sustainable Development Goals (Credit: United Nations)

The focus of the book is very much on the initial stages of a project: include sustainability on the basis of the design of a project, demonstrating options for sustainable solutions suggestion of sustainable techniques. As a dredging equipment manufacturer5, most of the topics will not affect my daily work. Still, in the work group sessions, it was interesting to see the interaction between the various parties that are involved with the initiation of a project. As a dredge builder4, we usually meet the requirements for the equipment applied. Though, the technical solution to achieve this might be not the most commercial solution. However, the book makes it clear and provides examples, that taking all aspects of a project into account, including social and nature opportunities, the benefits of a sustainable approach of a project might still make a viable business case.

Three pillars of sustainability (Credit: CEDA & IADC)
Three pillars of sustainability (Credit: CEDA & IADC)

The verdict on the book: it is a reference book. And as such it is very tiresome to plough through. However, the course is very enlightening as introductory lectures into the contents. Then the meticulously compiled information starts to live. Don’t depend on the courses alone, also leaf through and note all the valuable tables, graphs and diagrams, especially the guiding boxes that can assist you in setting up your dredging project. It definitely belongs on your bookshelf.

‘Dredging for Sustainable Infrastructure’ in our bookshelf
‘Dredging for Sustainable Infrastructure’ in our bookshelf

References

  1. CEDA and IADC launches new ‘Dredging for Sustainable Infrastructure’ Course, CEDA
  2. Online Course ‘Dredging for Sustainable Infrastructure’, IADC
  3. Dredging for Sustainable Infrastructure, CEDA&IADC
  4. The 17 goals, United Nations
  5. Damen Dredging Equipment, Damen

See also

Book Review: The World In A Grain

Cover page The World In A Grain by Vince Beiser.

Last Saturday, a special Dutch season started: Sinterklaas1. He traditionally arrives in a steam ship in some camera pleasing port and starts his tour through the country. Eventually he commemorates his name day (December 6th) by leaving presents for all children on the eve before. Usually this is celebrated with children and/or parents giving each other presents in elaborate packaging and clumsy rhymes. So, this might be a good occasion to recommend a book for your wish list.

Somewhere I found a copy of ‘The World in a Grain’ by Vince Beiser2. Actually, it was the subtitle, ‘The Story of Sand and How It Transformed Civilization’ that caught my attention. As you may have noticed, I am very interested in sand. And, it is good, to occasionally take a step back and contemplate how our product contributes to civilisation and the world as we know it.

Photo of American-Canadian journalist Vince Beiser (Credit: Wikipedia).

Vince Beiser3 is an American-Canadian journalist and the book is easy to read. The chapters are arranged to the subject where sand is coming from and its contribution to society. Beginning with the origin of sand, the erosion of rock, and the locations where it ends up and can be extracted. The most basic application of sand is construction sand to create infrastructure: reclaimed land, ballast material for roads and railways, general landscaping etc. Than, the applications become more refined: concrete, asphalt, fracking, foundries, glass making, eventually all the way to high end products as computer chips and smart phones. Each application requiring its own type of sand.

Soil sample exhibit at the Damen Dredging Experience.

Proceeding through the book, you will be surprised about how dependent we’ve become on such a small unit of our universe. And that is exactly where Beiser is alarming us about. Not only that at some point in the future, sand will become a scarce commodity, it already is. As with all scarce materials, they become precious and attract activity that is not always benefitting all stakeholders. This usually involves violence and crime. And Beiser has been exploring this dark side of the trade for his book.

His experience as criminal-justice journalist has helped him to uncover social injustice, where some greedy individuals were profiting from resources that ought to serve the wellbeing of all mankind. Beautiful beaches that have been scooped away. Rivers that changed their course and deprived communities from irrigation. Pastoral landscape, that was torn up and left behind devastated. He visited some sites and spoke to victims and activists. At some occasions, he was even threatened himself.

Progressing through the book, I even felt ashamed that I was taking part in an industry that allegedly rapes nature and deprives future generations of their rightful heritage. He reported severe cases from undeveloped countries, but even well-known names in our dredging industry have been mentioned. According to Beiser, there is no direct solution, as the demand is still on the rise, but I think there is: cooperation in governance. Share with others the experience on sand mining, the market possibilities and communicate with all stakeholders involved. Personally, I am involved in CEDA4, but there are many more platforms: IADC, EuDA, EMSAGG, PIANC etc. And as always: think about what you are doing and what does it leave future generations with.

OK, one last bonus link for those who don’t like reading a whole book. I think the producers of the Dutch children’s TV show ‘Buitendienst’5, last Friday, have been reading this book also.

Het grote zandmysterie (Credit: De Buitendienst).

References

  1. Sinterklaas, Wikipedia
  2. The World in a Grain, Amazon
  3. Vince Beiser, Wikipedia
  4. Dredging Management Commission, CEDA
  5. Het grote zandmysterie, NPO Zapp

See also