Witteveen+Bos wins third prize in World Bank innovation programme

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Witteveen+Bos has won third prize in the innovation programme of the World Bank’s West Africa Coastal Areas Management Program (WACA). He received the prize for his Systems Approach for Sustainable Port Development along the West African coast. Tom Wilms, an expert in integrated coastal management at Witteveen+Bos, sucessfully pitched the idea.

Within the approach, a thorough understanding of the local systems of environment, society, economy and governance is essential. As well as this, stakeholders and experts need to play an active role from the start. The jury rewarded this innovative approach with third prize and $10,000. These funds will enable Tom, as project leader, to further develop the approach in cooperation with the World Bank.

Cyclical approach

The innovation programme aims to find innovative and feasible solutions to coastal erosion, flooding and pollution caused by port developments and operations in West Africa.

Witteveen+Bos, together with its partners CDR International, PENAf, Prof. Tiedo Vellinga, Boskalis and Wetlands International, has developed a cyclical, five-step approach that aligns the sustainable economic growth of ports with the needs of the environment and society. The five steps are:

  1. Problems and plans (needs and values) are identified in relation to the port project and the area surrounding the port; 
  2. The processes within the local systems of environment, society, economy and governance are analysed and the root causes of the problems are identified; 
  3. The functions, values and benefits are then analysed;
  4. Alternatives are developed, consisting of both physical and socio-economic measures;
  5. Finally, the alternatives are assessed on the basis of their effects and sustainable solutions are chosen.

Going through multiple cycles of these steps results in sustainable solutions that are widely supported. By taking intrinsic values as its starting point, this approach contributes to achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

With his background and experience abroad as an expert in integrated coastal management and Nature-Based Solutions, Tom Wilms is used to taking a broad view of coastal and port developments. Wilms: 'We have to think differently about port developments: a paradigm shift is necessary. We need to move away from a traditional approach oriented around engineering and economic concerns, towards an integrated approach that takes into account all stakeholders in the areas of the environment, society and economy.'

Background: WACA Prize - World Bank

The World Bank Group launched a Call for Innovation as part of its West Africa Coastal Areas Management Program (WACA). This call forms part of the ongoing WACA Resilience Investment Project (WACA ResIP), a multi-country regional project aimed at supporting existing coastal developments and strengthening the resilience of coastal communities in Benin, Côte d'Ivoire, Mauritania, São Tomé and Príncipe, Senegal and Togo.

These six countries, covering approximately 2,200 km of coastline, struggle with particularly vulnerable coastal areas due to erosion, flooding and pollution. The WACA programme supports these countries in developing multi-sector investment plans.

The scale and complexity of coastal degradation require an interdisciplinary and regional approach, as well as a level of funding and support which involves many stakeholders and partners. The aim of the Call for Innovation is to find innovative yet feasible solutions to coastal degradation.