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The Water Business Unit is engaged in water infrastructure projects to meet the rapidly rising demand for water, spurred by climate change, population growth, the expanding scale of economic activity, and advances in urbanization. Hitachi globally provides total water environment solutions, including critical infrastructure for potable water, wastewater treatment, and recycling. We do this by combining our expertise in such operational technology (OT) as the monitoring, control, and management of water-treatment facilities and in IT for wide-area water systems using IoT and analytics.
The water infrastructure business is strongly influenced by both environmental and social conditions. To contribute to the resolution of social issues through this business, we must first have a full understanding of floods, draught, and other issues caused by environment related factors like topography and climate change. The issues to be addressed vary widely from region to region. In developing countries, measures may be needed to counter environment-induced water shortages and to ensure high-quality supplies of water in the light of prevailing sanitary conditions, while in Japan and other developed countries, the focus is often more on maintaining efficiency and replacing aging facilities in the water infrastructure in keeping with changes in the social environment, as well as on giving consideration to the quality of wastewater.
In the past, our water infrastructure operations were centered on constructing waterways, water-treatment facilities, and other large-scale facilities in areas with water shortages. Today, we are increasingly called upon to meet rising operational and maintenance demand, such as by building monitoring and control systems to ensure safe and stable supplies of water. In Japan, we will be replacing aging facilities in addition to introducing the latest systems that combine our OT and IT expertise. Outside of Japan, we anticipate not only providing basic infrastructure for water purification and wastewater treatment within the framework of government assistance but also developing and expanding seawater desalination plants in water-deficient areas. One of our strengths in advancing these tasks will be the expertise we have accumulated over many years in OT. We will seek further growth by utilizing IoT and AI to analyze data collected through monitoring and control systems, thereby raising the efficiency of our desalination operations and enhancing the reliability of water supply and sewage facilities.
A single-minded pursuit of efficiency, though, carries the risk of increasing the environmental burden of our business. In seawater desalination, for example, this can lead to the generation of by-products like high-salinity wastewater and end-of-use consumables (membranes and chemicals). In developing countries with an unstable power supply, meanwhile, we must consider the possibility of shutdowns due to blackouts. To hedge against both types of risk—the burden we place on the environment and local conditions affecting our operations—we will further advance solutions that draw on our Group's collective strength in OT, IT, and products. We will also attach importance to forging partnerships with national and local governments and other stakeholders. We will also coordinate our activities with other Hitachi business units engaged in the industrial, distribution, and water sectors, namely, the Industrial Products Business Unit and the Industry & Distribution Business Unit, to not only provide new products and facilities but also undertake the replacement of aging facilities and offer maintenance services from a long-term perspective so that we can evolve into a recycling-oriented business supporting people's lifestyles. Through these activities, we aim to build a recurring business model.
We have been contracted, for example, to expand a desalination plant in the city of Basra, Iraq, as part of a Japanese government assistance project. Improving water- and power-related infrastructure is a challenge facing Iraqi society as it recovers from years of warfare, and we are proud to be involved in helping the country meet this challenge.
With regard to the SDGs, the activities of the Water Business Unit are linked directly to the achievement, mainly, of Goal 6, and this is a goal to which we are strongly committed. We believe we can also contribute to Goals 9 and 13 in the process of realizing stable supplies of water globally. The keys to a stable water supply in any part of the world are technicians who are closely engaged in the local community. Hitachi is thus involved in developing the skills of young water technicians in South Africa and so is also contributing to the achievement of Goal 4.
We are now discussing how we can make a more concrete contribution to the achievement of the SDGs by 2030 as we seek the sustainable development of our own business. In fiscal 2018, the Water Business Unit welcomed 17 new employees; it appears that an increasing number of young employees are eager to become engaged in the global water environment business. I believe it is one of my missions to expand arenas of activity for such young workers, and I am calling on them to help elevate our business unit into one that can actively contribute to Hitachi's sustainability management, which includes the achievement of the SDGs.