KOZHIKODE: India’s Ambassador to the Netherlands, career diplomat and former journalist Venu Rajamony believes India can develop strong bilateral relationships with the Netherlands. He was in Kozhikode to attend the Kerala Literature Fest. In an exclusive interview with Express, Rajamony talks about rebuilding flood-ravaged Kerala and his latest book ‘What We Can Learn From The Dutch’.
In view of the August floods, Netherlands offered to provide aid and help the government rebuild the state. What kind of support can we expect from the Dutch government?
The UN-World Bank-Asian Development Bank team which came to Kerala immediately after the floods included two water experts nominated by the Dutch government team. The ‘Water Chapter’ published in the Post-Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA) report was written by them. Now another team of technical experts arriving soon from the Netherlands will help the state government follow up on the recommendations in the PDNA report with short, medium and long-term steps. The team will work with the state government in identified areas and provide technical aid to the government.
For centuries, the Netherlands has been under the threat of floods, prompting them to develop a unique system for flood prevention. Could you give us some insights into these methods?
The Dutch policies towards flood management involve three main steps: living with water, building with nature and room for the river. The understanding is that flood cannot be prevented owing to climatic changes and rise in sea levels. Hence we need to be constantly prepared and work with nature, instead of against it.
Dutch innovations and methods for flood control, such as a sand motor, creation of more space for rivers and development of natural protective measures, such as sand dunes or mangroves, are mentioned ‘What We Can Learn From The Dutch’ and can be tried in Kerala.
In April, the Indian Embassy in the Netherlands had organised a unique initiative, Bollywood on a Boat, to promote tourism to India. What similar projects can we take to rebuild the tourism sector in the post-flood scenario and bring more tourists from the Netherlands to the state?
The Dutch are great tourists who travel primarily to European countries. Considering Kerala’s apt climate, food, landscape and historical ties with Dutch travellers, it could be a preferred spot for tourists from the Netherlands in the future. However, to develop the tourism sector, the industry itself has to take the lead, with more hotels, spa operators and Ayurveda resorts working in unison with travel agents in the Netherlands. We will continue the ‘Bollywood on a Boat’ project and hope Kerala Tourism will join us and present its unique features to the Dutch people.
In which other areas could India and Netherlands have ties in the future?
The Netherlands has great strength in areas where India has great needs, especially in the fields of water and agriculture. Through greater cooperation, India will be able to build far better infrastructure and implement water treatment methods, recycling techniques, coastal erosion steps and so on.
What is your take on the Sabarimala issue?
Kerala is a constantly evolving state and the people here are known for their high education levels, political consciousness, etc. It is disheartening to see street wars occurring in Kerala and Sabarimala being turned into a place of dispute. People should be willing to sit and talk to find a solution to the issue through non-violent means.