Rivers need space

floods Serbia, Bosnia. May 2014

Ten thousand of evacuees were plucked out of the disaster areas in Serbia

Spring 2014: Thousands of people have fled their homes in Europe’s ‘Balkan region’ after record rainfall.

Official counts indicated that over 1.6 million people were affected.

Assessments of the damage ranged up to several billions of dollars. 

Can floods be avoided?

Not only Bosnia and Serbia can learn from the Dutch approach. Britain, Germany and a lot of other countries are facing problems the last years preventing floods and defense the water.

Room for rivers

In Holland hard-won reclaimed land – polders – have been given back to rivers and meanders are being cut back into flood plains, all as part of a back-to-nature approach that is reversing centuries of battling against water, in favour of finding ways to live with it.

The Netherlands is a land of waterways and a quarter is below sea level, with 60% of its people in flood-risk areas. There is a lot of experience of what it takes to deal with flooding, in both financial and human terms.

People have been forced to move so other people can keep their feet dry. The key is to make the low country safe and everyone is compensated properly.

The disruption is enormous: new bridges, roads, pipes and repositioned dykes are all in construction, leaving great muddy tracks across the flat green and blue landscape.

Storage of billions of tons of water

Successful projects like Room for the River have also gone ahead in other countries, such as Germany and China. In England and Wales, which together have actually a 50% greater area of land below sea level than the Netherlands, the last Labour government began a similar project, called ‘Making room for water’ but when the government changed, it stopped.

The new meanders, and fields newly opened account for about 6% of the total 150,000 hectare area of the Dutch Water Board and can store 20m tonnes of water from rivers.

It can be a leap of faith for local communities,” said Rooke, noting that the early results in Somerset look promising.

Erosion

The sea remains as major flood threat to the Netherlands and on the windy coast, not far from the major cities of Rotterdam, a €75m government-backed experiment has been finished. A new crescent-shaped peninsula, 4 miles long, has been created just in front of the sandy beach.

The idea is that rather than having to replenish the beach every year to protect the coast, the waves and currents will wash the 20m cubic metres of sand used to create the peninsula into place: the project is called the ‘Sand Motor‘.

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