It would require all Member States to carry out preliminary assessments to identify the river basins and coastal areas at risk of flooding. These zones would then require flood management plans to be drawn up and would focus on prevention, protection and preparedness.

Stavros Dimas, Commissioner for the Environment said: “Catastrophic floods endanger lives and are likely to cause human tragedy as well as heavy economic losses. This new directive will help Member States choose the right tools with which to reduce the likelihood of floods and limit their impacts. In particular, it aims to ensure that Member States cooperate in shared river basins and coastal areas to improve flood protection all over Europe.”

Since most of Europe’s river basins are shared by more than one country, concerted action at European level will result in better management of flood risks.

The proposed Directive would involve a three-step process. First, a preliminary flood risk assessment of river basins and associated coastal zones would have to be undertaken. Secondly, flood risk maps would have to be developed in areas where real risks exist. Finally, flood risk management plans would have to be drawn up for the affected zones.

Management plans would have to include measures to reduce the probability of flooding and its potential consequences and address all phases of the flood risk management cycle.

Flooding has caused about 700 deaths and at least ¬25 billion in damage as well as displacing over half a million people since 1998. The Commission first adopted a Communication on flood risk management in 2004 in response to the devastating floods of summer 2002.

It is likely that coming years will see higher risk of floods throughout Europe partially as climate change will bring a higher intensity of rainfall and rising sea levels, and greater numbers of construction in flood plains.

David Hopkins

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