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International Day for Biological Diversity 2020: Veolia draws inspiration from nature to better preserve it

"Our solutions are found in nature": 2020 is, more than ever, the year when the world needs to reverse the loss of biodiversity for the benefit of all life on Earth. On International Day for Biological Diversity, Veolia reminds us that solutions inspired by nature do exist: focusing on them and developing them allows us to rediscover the ingenuity and intelligence of our ecosystems, in order to better protect them.

 

Making territories more resilient

The most recent reports from the GIEC and the intergovernmental platform on biodiversity and ecosystem services (IPBES) stress the links between climate, nature and biodiversity. They highlight the consequences of climate change and warn of the rapid decline in biodiversity. Nature-based solutions (NBS) provide an answer to these challenges.

Redesigning land-use by integrating nature more fully into it helps to limit the consequences of the environmental crises that are accelerating with the changing climate. It requires a collective approach and a global vision involving all the stakeholders (municipalities, industry, farmers, NGOs, citizens). For example, in the Vallée de la Bièvre, a river south-west of Paris in France, dyke and watercourse improvements and monitoring helped by new technologies are reducing flood risks and at the same time encouraging biodiversity.

 


"Nature-based solutions are dependent on our ability to collectively win the race against time in the fight against climate change," said Pierre Victoria, Veolia's Director of Sustainable Development.


 

Drawing inspiration from nature within a territory

Hybrid water treatment systems combine grey (conventional water treatment facilities) and green infrastructures to improve the ecological quality of environments. These green infrastructures (wetlands, flood plains, etc.) rely on natural mechanisms such as filtration, phyto-purification, etc. For example, in China, on the site of the industrialist Sinopec managed by Veolia, an 8-hectare wetland has been restored: it is located at the outlet of the wastewater treatment plant and helps to return purer water to the natural environment. 

Veolia also uses living organisms as bio-indicators to measure the quality of water, air or soil: this is the case in Marseille (France) where bees are used as the indicator of the health of ecosystems.

 

Circular economy loops mimic natural ecosystems

As in nature, where everything is recycled, the waste of some becomes resources for others in the local circular economy loops designed by Veolia. For example: in Denmark, the Billund bio-refinery uses microorganisms to clean up wastewater and produces biogas, bio-fertilizers and bio-plastics from sewage sludge; in Belgium, the larvae of tadpoles and fish detect the presence of endocrine disruptors in wastewater treatment plant effluent and prevent their release into the environment;  in South Africa in Durban, 98% of the SWTW (Southern Wastewater Treatment Works) wastewater is recycled, thereby reducing pressure over the drinking water in this high water stress region.

Re-examining our relationship to nature

In view of the unprecedented health and economic crisis we are currently experiencing, Veolia, together with the Usbek & Rica foresight magazine, has initiated the "Wednesday events" which re-examine our relationship with nature and biodiversity. This series of interviews with experts on the theme of And tomorrow: double or nothing for the environment? cuts across political, social and environmental approaches to explore the "world afterwards".