Throughout the continent, opportunities abound for much-needed infrastructure improvements.
Not long ago Robin Wong managed to leave the Philippines, where he had been visiting on business, just before a typhoon hit. He felt lucky, he says, but acknowledges that in fact typhoons can represent business opportunities in Asia’s emerging markets.
“They had a lot of flooding from the storm, and Xylem offers pumping solutions that can help,” says Wong, Business Development Manager for Treatment, Asia Pacific region, based in the company’s office in Hong Kong.
Wong builds infrastructure in Asia. The job brings distinct challenges, he says – whether that means handling typhoon flooding, helping poorer countries obtain foreign aid for water treatment plants or protecting Hong Kong’s rare pink dolphins. As Xylem expands in the huge markets of China and India, the company is also pursuing projects in smaller countries with potential, including Indonesia, Vietnam, Singapore and Malaysia.
“My sense of the market is that people in Asia are not just hungry, they’re starving for knowledge and expertise,” Wong says. “This is where I see Xylem really making a big impact.”
Across Asia, the markets are being driven by rapid urbanization and major investment in infrastructure. For governments, Wong says, “their first priority is to get clean drinking water to rural and urban areas. Next they start dealing with the environmental issues brought when sewage flows into waterways.”
An engineer by training, Wong helped set up a large ultraviolet (UV) treatment system in for a wastewater plant in Chengdu, China. For that project, the UV equipment was imported from Germany. “In the long run, however, our strategy calls for more innovation and for localizing production. The goal is to become both more cost-effective and more competitive.”
For emerging countries that face budget shortfalls, the company helps them connect with aid agencies such as the Asian Development Bank. Wong says, “It’s a value-added package that we bring to the table.”
For particularly challenging projects, Xylem often works alongside consultants who bring additional Asian expertise to the table. AECOM, a design and engineering company with offices across Asia, advises municipal customers on wastewater pumping and treatment options. The two companies recently worked together on a project that may help protect the Chinese White Dolphin, which, despite its name, has a remarkable pink color.
In 2010, Xylem supplied a large-scale UV disinfection system to Hong Kong’s new Siu Ho Wan Sewage Treatment Plant. In planning the plant, AECOM provided the municipality with a feasibility study, pilot testing, designs and construction supervision.
The resulting effluent disinfection system is designed to minimize impact on the marine environment, helping to keep Hong Kong’s dolphin population healthy – and pink.
The AECOM connection
Founded in 1990, the design and engineering consulting company AECOM has become a key player in the creation of water infrastructure in Asia and around the world. Recently, AECOM specialists helped develop a sewage master plan for Delhi, improved water quality in Hong Kong’s harbor and supplied drinking water to Tamil Nadu in southern India. In Asia, the company employs more than 5,000 people in various cities, including Beijing, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Ho Chi Minh City, Jakarta, Manila, Singapore, Tokyo and New Delhi. AECOM – an acronym for Architecture, Engineering, Consulting, Operations and Management – had total revenues of 7 billion US dollars during the year 2010.