As flood risks increase around the world, who is ready? •


Although great progress has been made in mitigating the risks of floods and droughts, their impact on the world’s population is increasing. The effect is most visible when a second climatic disaster hits an already damaged area.

By analyzing 29 pairs of floods and 15 droughts around the world, the researchers sought to determine how risks were managed between the first and second event.

Scientists have found that in many cases risk factors do not improve. However, Barcelona and Central Europe remained strong, although these areas remain vulnerable.

“The improvements to Barcelona’s stormwater network over the past twenty years have been instrumental in mitigating the effects of flooding in the city. Indeed, while in the metropolitan area of ​​Barcelona there has been a slight increase in flooding since 1981, this trend is negative in Barcelona. However, this is not enough,” said Professor María del Carmen Llasat, co-author of the study.

Flood mitigation actions in Germany and Austria were also considered successful. Barcelona, ​​Germany and Austria have a few things in common: investment in infrastructure such as dykes and stormwater tanks, and better government commitment, including warning systems.

However, even these mitigation measures carry risks. Professor Llasat explained: “Large investments such as those made in the city of Barcelona or in Central Europe are not possible for everyone. In fact, they wouldn’t be desirable either. Recent studies have shown that they can lead to a false sense of security (especially in the event of river flooding), because they increase the occupation of flood-prone areas and therefore the associated risk.

Experts believe that the path to real success is community-based flood mitigation that involves nature-based solutions.

“The administration needs to improve its knowledge of the risk, the distribution of the most flood-prone areas of the city, how to act in the event of heavy rains, etc. said Professor Llasat.

“Regarding citizens, we must realize that this risk will increase with climate change and that we will need citizen participation. Education in schools, mandatory information on flood risks, improved public warnings and guidelines on how to act both preventively and during emergencies are also some of the points that should be taken into account to reduce the impact of these natural events.

The research is published in the journal Nature.

By Erin Moody , Personal editor


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