ClimateCafe for better water quality in the Philippines

Tauw is collaborating with international (applied) universities to find solutions for the global issue of heavily polluted rivers. Awareness must be raised in order to generate support for an integral approach. That is why the ‘ClimateCafe’ has been set up, where ‘young professionals’ work in an international and interdisciplinary setting to implement creative solutions to improve water quality. Recently the 22nd edition of the ClimateCafe took place: the Butuanon River Scan in the Philippines.

Everywhere in the world, rivers in urban areas tend to be (heavily) polluted with (serious) consequences for the enviroment. Due to several factors the situation will become worse as industrialisation, population growth & urbanisation (increase of wastewater) and climate change.

Climatecafe raises awareness and addresses the sources of pollution by encouraging governments and other stakeholders to adopt a proactive mindset. In Climatecafé young professionals work in an international and interdisciplinary setting to generate and implement creative solutions for worldwide issues like water quality.

Climate Cafe

ClimateCafe is an initiative where (applied) universities, companies and local companies work together. Each ClimateCafe focuses on an apparently irresolvable problem. This problem is then addressed in an international and interdisciplinary setting, which results in a specific and tangible end product. A physical end product is what distinguishes each Cafe from other initiatives.

For instance, solutions like a floating island, a constructed wetland and a waste collector have been proposed and implemented together with local stakeholders. These solutions were implemented in various countries and knowledge regarding ‘Best Management Practices’ were exchanged by all involved parties.

Polluted rivers worldwide and international knowledge exchange about solutions like ‘waste collectors’, such as the Shoreliner in Rotterdam

Butuanon River Scan

The 22nd edition of the ClimateCafe took place in November 2018: namely the Butuanon River Scan in the Philippines. The Butuanon river is found on the island of Cebu, which is located in Cebu province. The river flows into Mandaue City. In 2015, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) regarded this location as the dirtiest river of the Philippines.

This was one of the main reasons to organise a River Scan as part of the ClimateCafe. Floris Boogaard from Tauw and Hanze University of Applied Sciences (Groningen), Rick Heikoop from Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences, Christine Marie Ilagan Gohetia from the University of San Carlos in Cebu City and Ubo Pakes from the University of the Philippines in Iloilo City helped to set up this initiative together with the municipality of Mandaue, Tauw and INDYMO.

Approach and conclusion

The Butuanon River Scan started with a comprehensive and interactive problem analysis. This involved six international interdisciplinary groups analysing interviews and reports from stakeholders and residents, observations in the field as well as upstream, midstream and downstream sensor-based measurements. They adopted various perspectives to assess issues at three different locations in the river. All observations and measurement results were immediately registered on-site. See insight.

The conclusion of this River Scan is that pollution is increasing considerably from upstream to downstream; not only due to visible pollution like plastic, but also due to micro pollutants measured using continuous sensors.

Results and follow-up

The River Scan involved constructing floating islands that are capable of collecting floating waste, purifying water and improving the appearance of the river. Knowledge exchange has spurred the local government into action; convincing it to stop sources of pollution and to promote and implement new purification techniques. For instance, it is no longer possible for some pig farms to discharge untreated wastewater into the river.

Output from the Climate Cafe has been included in an interactive website, which uses videos, presentations and posters to describe the issue and highlight solutions. The approach and results have been presented to managers, experts and local governments during two conferences in the Philippines: 'Emerging Sustainable Strategies for Climate Change' (Manila, 10 November) and the Fourth International River Summit (Mandaue City, 22-24 November). Click here for an insight into these events.

More Climate Cafes will follow in 2019, for instance, in Sweden, Singapore, Dubai and Melbourne. More information can be found at:

Tauw and Climate Cafe

Tauw is taking part in various projects to find solutions for polluted rivers throughout the world. For example, in India, Indonesia, the Philippines and South Africa:

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