The growing frequency and scale of floods due to climate change and the increasing number of people and property located in flood-prone areas means a higher flood risk in Europe. Often the wide-ranging scope of catastrophic flooding across river basins and coastal regions demands a cross-border approach to the problem. The Commission’s new draft directive to fight floods responds to this challenge.
Floods are natural phenomena, which cannot be fully prevented. During the last seven years Europe has been hit by more than 100 major floods, including the catastrophic summer floods of the Danube and Elbe rivers in 2002. Since 1998 flooding has killed 700 people in Europe, displaced half a million others and caused at least €25 billion in economic losses, not to mention severe environmental damage when chemical facilities are affected.
The European Commission’s new draft directive builds on the EU’s year 2000 Water Framework Directive link 1, which is the cornerstone of EU water protection policy. The draft measure proposes a coherent cross-border approach to minimising the risk of flooding by requiring EU Member States to work together to identify potential flood zones such as river basins, coastal areas and flash-flood paths. Each flood zone will be analysed concerning existing and future flood damage potential on human health, economy, infrastructure and the environment. Result of these analyses are ‘flood risk maps’ supporting the production of local, regional or, where necessary, cross-border action plans based on prevention, protection and preparedness. Creation of these flood risk management plans will help prevent and limit the damaging effects of floods.
Unveiling the draft directive on 18 January, Stavros Dimas link 2, Commissioner for the Environment, said the new measure will help EU nations “chose the right tools with which to reduce the likelihood of floods and limit their impacts” while ensuring that they cooperate in shared river basins and coastal areas “to improve flood protection all over Europe.”