Economy Minister Naftali Bennett was in China Tuesday to launch the Shangdong Water City Project.
As part of the project, dozens of Israeli environmental technology companies will set up facilities in the city of Shougang, bringing Israeli know-how in such area as desalination, sewage management, irrigation and water recycling for agricultural use.
Some of that Israeli technology will help quench China’s need for clean water, said Bennett.
“Israel and China are natural partners for technological and business cooperation. We have extensive experience in management of water resources and the Water City Project will help open the Chinese market to Israeli water companies, as well as advancing bilateral relations,” he said.
Shandong Province, located on China’s east coast – about halfway between Beijing and Shanghai – is one of the country’s leading agricultural regions, but has experienced increased industrialization and urbanization in recent years.
The region has many water problems, including deteriorating water quality, overuse of groundwater (which has led to increased brackishness as ocean water seeps into the groundwater reservoirs), soil erosion and overall pollution.
With the region producing over half of China’s meat exports, and with annual vegetable production reaching 4 billion kilograms, water security has become a major issue for Shangdong – and for many other parts of China, which suffer from similar problems.
China and Israel agreed on the establishment of the Water City Project about six years ago (the project was announced at the WaTec water conference in Israel in 2011), and on Tuesday, the go-ahead for construction of the project, which will include offices, labs, classrooms, and amenities, was given the green light.
On a visit to Israel last May, Chen Gang, Mayor of Xiang He City, located outside of Beijing, said that China needs Israeli help with its environmental problems. In the Beijing area, that would be green tech, Chen said. Because of the heavy pollution in the city and its suburbs, “environmental technology, water technology and renewable energy systems are very important to us”.
On that same visit to Israel, Yongjie Chen, deputy general secretary of the China Center for International Economic Exchanges – and a member of the Chinese Communist Party’s ruling body, the Politburo – said Israel is “the best place in the world for China to invest” to acquire the technology the country needs to solve its environmental and social problems.
“I knew Israel was a leader in technology, and I also knew its accomplishments were out of character for a nation of its size, but you have to come to Israel to understand what the term ‘start-up nation’ really means,” he said.