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(Photo: Erosion at Matinhos Beach, Brazil. Source: Gazeta do Povo)

Mark Bruggeling has been working for Van Oord and Boskalis in Brazil since September 2018 to explore the opportunities for Building with Nature. The 8,000 kilometres of shoreline and the Amazon as second longest river in the world offer many possibilities. But what is the status of Building with Nature in Brazil? And how are coastal issues like erosion and harbour development addressed right now? Which parties are working on these issues?

Universities

‘The past two months I have already encountered quite a bit of ‘Construindo com a Natureza’. Among others, the Federal University of Santa Catarina has included Building with Nature in their curriculum. I have noticed TU Delft is seen as an authority on hydraulic engineering and that universities look to TU Delft for expertise. Last September for example I visited a conference about Brazilian sandy beaches and gave a presentation on Building with Nature there. There was one student who asked very detailed questions about the Dutch sand engine. This student turned out to be taught by one of the professors who included Building with Nature in their curriculum.’

Government

Building with Nature is also not completely new to the Brazilian government, Mark noted. ‘On the website of the Federal Brazilian Ministry of Environmental government I came across a guideline on coastal erosion and coastal protection that mentions the Building with Nature approach several times, with specific examples like the sand engine.’

There is talk about Building with Nature in Brazilian government and universities. ‘But so far I have not seen any real applications yet. On the conference I mentioned earlier someone from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro did however present a project with a Building with Nature type of thought behind it. This project was about a channel that kept silting up. Instead of annually dredging large quantities the channel has been moved, decreasing the accretion as well as the need for maintenance dredging.’

Industry

Dutch hydraulic engineering companies operating in Brazil also bring the Building with Nature philosophy to Brazil. The reason for Mark going to Brazil was that Boskalis and Van Oord had seen and heard from Brazilians themselves that the current approach to e.g. coastal erosion and harbour development is not always very effective. ‘The combination of economy, ecology and society is not always considered carefully. The coast in Brazil for example has a major tourist function that needs to be included when tackling coastal erosion issues. Besides that, very little is done right now with the re-use of dredged material from harbour maintenance for creating habitats like a bird island or sea bed landscaping. These examples are great opportunities for the industry to develop appropriate Building with Nature solutions.’

Next step

In short, the potential is definitely there. And the philosophy is beginning to gain a foothold here as well. ‘One of the next steps is to actually apply Building with Nature in Brazilian practice’, concludes Mark.