Tackling Flooding – the 2007/60/EC Directive

Britain is far from alone with its recent severe bouts of coastal erosion and river flooding. Between 1998 and 2009, Europe suffered over 213 major damaging floods, including the catastrophic floods along the Danube and Elbe rivers in summer 2002. The severe floods of 2005 further reinforced the need for concerted action. Between 1998 and 2009, floods in Europe caused some 1126 deaths, the displacement of about half a million people and at least €52 billion in insured economic losses. Since then the escalating coastal erosion and riverine floods further damaged the natural environment. The December 2014 English East Coast surge and the flood damage in the south-west will have added far more.

The EU Floods Directive 2007/60/EC on the assessment and management of flood risks was first proposed by the European Commission on 18th January 2006 and published 6th November 2007. It came into force on 26th November 2007. It requires all Member States to assess all water courses and coastlines at risk from flooding, to map the flood extent, assets and humans at risk in these areas, and to take adequate and co-ordinated measures to reduce this risk. It further reinforced the rights of the public to access this information and to have a say in the planning process.

The Directive requires flood risk management plans and river basin management plans to be co-ordinated, and through co-ordination of the public participation procedures in the preparation of these plans. All assessments, maps and plans prepared should be made available to the public.

The aim of the Directive is to reduce and manage the risks that floods pose to human health, the environment, cultural heritage and economic activity. The Directive required Member States to first carry out a preliminary assessment and by 2011 to identify the river basins and associated coastal areas at risk of flooding. For such zones they would then have needed to draw up flood risk maps by 2013 and establish flood risk management plans focused on prevention, protection and preparedness by 2015. The Directive applies to inland waters as well as all coastal waters across the whole territory of the EU.

It is further concerned with sustainable land use practices in the flood risk management cycle and in addressing economic and social damage and other severe environmental consequences, for example when installations holding large quantities of toxic chemicals and nuclear plants are inundated or wetland areas destroyed.

So just how far Britain has gone along this required and essential route? Certainly by continuing to build on known flood plains, failing to dredge in rivers where needed but continuing marine dredging where not needed, by enforcing the Shoreline Management Plan bringing about ‘Managed Retreat’ instead of defending vital areas, and the lack of heeding the results of public consultations on the SMP, obviously not near enough. Climate change with its increased velocity storms and greater rainfall dictates a far a higher flood risk in all of Europe including Britain with even greater economic, social and environmental damage in the future.

PG 23/03/14

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