Belgium: EIB lends Aquafin EUR 200 million for wastewater treatment and water protection schemes in flemish region
The European Investment Bank (EIB) and Aquafin N.V. have signed the first EUR 50 million instalment of a EUR 200 million 30-year loan for financing projects involving the additional sanitation of various discharge locations, the construction of wastewater treatment works and the laying of strategic rainwater piping to improve the existing infrastructure.
The agreement was signed by EIB Vice-President Pim Van Ballekom, and Aquafin’s Chairman, Marc van den Abeelen, and Managing Director, Luc Bossyns, in the presence of Peter Vermeiren, Managing Director for Structured and Corporate Finance of Belfius Bank NV, which has been acting as the agent for Aquafin’s long-term lenders since 1994.
This is EIB’s eighth loan to Aquafin for financing investment in the Flemish Region’s wastewater treatment facilities since 1994, bringing its total support in this area to EUR 1.4 billion. This latest agreement testifies to the good cooperation between the two partners. “Given the difficulty for companies to obtain long-term (30-year) loans from domestic commercial banks in the current financial crisis, this new EIB loan is very important to Aquafin. Along with the financial support from insurance companies and pension funds, it will enable to us to maintain the same pace of investment as in previous years” Marc van den Abeelen stressed.
Vice-President Van Ballekom added: “We are pleased that with the EIB’s financial support Aquafin will be able to pursue its medium-term investment in the water sector. The decision to grant this loan was based on an analysis of the company’s preparation for the future. Its efforts to anticipate climate change, its technological performance and its capacity for innovation were crucial to taking our partnership forward. The schemes that Aquafin will be able to carry out with this new loan will help to improve water quality in the Flemish Region’s water courses, with a direct impact on the River Schelde and the North Sea.”
The EIB has grown into one of the world’s biggest financiers of climate action projects. Realising that it is cheaper and more effective to anticipate climate change impacts than to take emergency measures, it finances a larger number of drinking water supply, sustainable water management and maritime conservation projects (it amounted to more than EUR 16 billion over the last 5 years.) This enables it to support long-term water quality programmes, as demonstrated in its partnership with Aquafin.
The efforts of the previous 20 years ensured that, in early September, the Flemish Region was the first Belgian Region to comply with the EU Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive, which specifies that wastewater from all towns with more than 2 000 inhabitants must be treated before being discharged into a water course. Nowadays 80% of household wastewater in the Flemish Region is treated, compared to barely 30% in the early 1990s, and there is three to five times less pollution in the region’s rivers. This has a clear and measurable biodiversity impact: “The fact that aquatic animals that were previously never or rarely seen are now returning in growing numbers to the region’s waterways is the best indication that biological water quality has dramatically improved” said Luc Bossyns. “Now we want to keep up the momentum and meet the requirements of the EU Water Framework Directive, which seeks to achieve good water quality in all streams and rivers.”