In 2007, the European Union’s Flood Directive entered into force requiring Member States to assess if all water courses and coastlines are at risk from flooding, to map the flood extent and humans and assets at risk in these areas and to take adequate and coordinated measures to reduce this flood risk. The overall aim of the Flood Directive is to reduce the adverse consequences to human health, economic activity, the environment and cultural heritage associated with floods. The Flood Directive required that by 2011, each Member State of the EU had identified areas subject to potential significant flood risks, and have these flood hazard and flood risks mapped by 2013, from which Flood Risk Management Plans (FRMP) must be developed by the end of 2015, subject to review every six years afterwards.
Europe’s transboundary flood risk management plans
While the Flood Directive provides Member States with the decision-making ability on the types of measures used in managing floods the objective of the Directive is to promote cooperation in the development and implementation of transboundary FRMPs. This comes under the Flood Directive’s principle of solidarity in that flood protection measures should not compromise the ability of other, upstream or downstream, regions or Member States to achieve the level of protection the regions/Member States themselves consider to be appropriate. Regarding the types of measures taken to protect lives and infrastructure from floods, the Flood Directive recommends taking both structural and non-structural measures to reduce the likelihood of floods and/or the impact of floods in a specific location.
Enhancing the EU’s resilience to natural hazards as well as its capacity to anticipate, prepare and respond to risks, especially transboundary risks, is also one of the objectives of the Europe 2020 strategy: competitiveness and sustainability depend on effective disaster risk management which helps avoid losses and strengthens resilience to increasing global shocks and threats.
Case study: Flood Risk Management Plans in the Danube River basin
In the Danube River basin it is projected from hydrological and climatic modeling that both the probability and the extent of extreme rain events during winter is expected to increase with climate change. To increase resilience to flooding the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River (ICPDR) launched in 2002 the Action Programme for Sustainable Flood Prevention in the Danube River Basin (Action Programme) with the overall goal of achieving a long-term, sustainable approach for managing the risks of floods to human life and property, while encouraging conservation and improvement of water-related ecosystems.
The five main principles of the Action Programme are:
1) A shift is required from defensive action against hazards to management of the risk and living with floods. In managing these risks, human interference in the processes of nature should be reversed, compensated for and in the future prevented.
2) Flood strategies should include the entire Danube basin area and promote the coordinated development, management and conservation of water, land and related resources with the development of basin and sub-basin-wide flood action plans based on an integrated approach taking into account the EU Water Framework Directive.
3) Joint action of government, municipalities and stakeholders towards developing flood risk management strategies that involve timely and reliable flood risk warning and forecasting systems, ongoing training and raising public awareness about flooding and the need to coexist with this phenomena;
4) Reduction of flood risks via restoring of river’s natural wetlands and floodplains to alleviate flooding risks, structural measures (defense structures) to protect human health and safety and of goods and property mainly in urban areas, and reduction of hazards, for instance, human use of floodplains should be adapted to existing hazards and measures taken to reduce the risk of flooding.
5) Solidarity is essential in managing flood risks, as one region should not pass on water management problems to another region.
Flood risk management plans need to involve coordinated planning across different administrative and political boundaries to mitigate transboundary flood risks.