Floodcom event discusses how to deal with new circumstances

Antwerp conference tackles flooding issues

'Adapt to mitigate the effects of flooding rather than trying to prevent it happening' was the key message from a the recent Floodcom.eu conference held in Antwerp, Belgium. The conference welcomed delegates from low-lying parts of Europe, to hear about how the project has shared knowledge, enterprise and innovation in flood alleviation practice.

In his introductory speech, Councillor John Jowers from Essex County Council said that 'nature is stronger than the human will to overcome. Floodcom has shown how we must live with nature, rather than fight against it.'

As well as interactive workshop sessions, the programme included speakers representing the four partner countries for the Floodcom Initiative; Belgium, France, Netherlands and the UK.

Tom Maris, a researcher at Antwerp University, talked about ‘whether climate change will change the ecology of our estuaries. 'Undoubtedly it will.' he said. 'Not only will there be a rise in sea levels, but there will be tidal changes and the risk of flooding will increase. Combined with a decrease in low water discharge, exacerbated by human modifications, such as dredging and embankments, there will be an impact on hydrodynamics and habitats.'

Nicolas Bauduceau from the European Centre for Flood Risk Prevention, talked about the new challenges for flood risk management in Europe. 'The dilemma is which strategy to adopt,' he said. 'Should we defend? Prepare and adapt? Or build sustainably? A new way of managing flood events is emerging and that is accepting that they will happen and therefore adapting ourselves to cope and be more resilient!'

He continued: 'Properties and critical infrastructure need to be built so that they are less vulnerable and they can withstand flooding. There is no perfect strategy in isolation, but success will come from an integration of the three options.'

Rosanna Briggs, deputy head of service at Essex Civil Protection & Emergency Management, then presented on co-ordination and the response to a major flood event. She used the tidal surge that occurred on the east coast of England in early December last year as an illustration and talked about the lessons learnt. These ranged from the importance of communications and sharing information to teleconferencing protocol. Rosanna commented: 'It’s all about integration of the teams involved and focusing on the fact that everything we do is about community.'

Community Flood Consultant Mary Dhonau shared her personal experience of the mental and physical impact of being flooded. She told delegates about her work to make people aware of flooding and how to prepare and mitigate the impact on your property. 'Preparation is essential,'she said. “It is impossible to overstate the stresses that arise within the family and community, not only when the flooding occurs, but for months and sometimes years afterwards.'

The conference concluded with a presentation from Gianluca Ferreri, project officer, Joint Technical Secretariat INTERREG IVA 2 Mers Seas Zeeen.

He gave an overview or the organisation that administers and funds 24 projects involving more than 130 environmental partners under the Matrix 3 criteria. He also gave delegates an update on the future of the 2 Seas Programme up to 2020 and where funding priorities lie with cross-border projects.

On their departure, each delegate was presented with a Floodcom Toolkit. The toolkit builds on the information presented in the afternoon workshop sessions with detailed case studies on each partner project, as well as practical guides to aid the sharing of issues around flood alleviation and delivering best practice. A free version of the toolkit can be downloaded at www.floodcom.eu, along with an innovative international education pack.

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