EU lawmakers agree new flood directive

A Europe-wide flood management policy came a step closer to realisation after the EU Parliament and Council approved the Floods Directive this week.

Prompted by the disastrous floods of 2002, the directive obliges member states to assess flood risk by 2011-13 and draw up plans to prevent floods and limit flood-related damage by 2015.

Floods have caused some 700 deaths since 1998, displaced half a million people and caused at least 25bn euro in insured economic losses across Europe. The EU expects flood frequency and intensity to increase in the coming years due to climate change.

“We very much welcome the fact that Parliament and Council have agreed so rapidly on the Floods Directive,” said commissioner for the Environment Stavros Dimas.

“This directive makes flood management a key part of river basin management. It will place more emphasis on non-structural measures like using natural flood plains as retention areas for water during floods,” he said.

Flood management is part of Europe’s adaptation strategy in the face of climate change, he said: “Even if we are successful in limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius, climate change will have serious impacts in Europe and elsewhere. The best way to reduce the costs of adapting to climate change is to take early action. The Flood Directive will help the European Union to do so”.

As it stands, the Flood Directive will require preliminary flood risk assessments of river basins and coastal zones completed across the EU by 2011, flood hazard maps drawn up by 2013 and flood risk management plans to by in place by 2015.

This will mean that in 8 years time, European countries will be obliged to factor flood risk into construction, avoiding flood-prone areas, to limit flooding by restoring wetlands and flood plains, and to educate the public about what to do in the case of flooding.

Goska Romanowicz

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