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Winter Journal

Volume 32, Issue 4

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Monday, 11 January 2016 06:00

Floods - What Can and Should Be Done?

Written by  Vicki Thomas

floodA few weeks ago we posted a short column about the flooding in the Southern United States, Northern England and South America. At the time, it was too early to dig into any analysis or review of measures that could have been taken to prepare citizens, communities, organizations and decision-makers of how and what to do to ensure safety and minimize loss.

While there is never a “right time” to discuss, analyze, and debate what could have or should have been done after any disaster, there is now some analysis in the media of what happened and needs to be done to prevent such similar natural disasters from occurring. In today’s column, we take a look at some of this discussion and provide you with links to articles from a range of sources related to this most recent natural disaster.

“And that is the shock: that our modern assumptions about safety are punctured by a few days of rain, and so distressingly and violently. We have come to think of ourselves as protected by our tarmac and infrastructure and industrialised life, and the powers of nature – and its dangers – have receded, though only in our assumptions….They think nothing will happen to them, or that nature won’t turn against them. But it does. (The Guardian)”

This excerpt from a personal analysis by journalist Rose George of The Guardian, really sums up what so many believe. The idea that we’re all safe and secure - until, we’re not. The sentiment expressed in this column is of personal experience seeing the flooded urban communities and the people who really had no idea that where was any reason to be concerned from an increase in rainfall, but this unfortunately is also a systemic reaction.

In an article in the Des Moines Register, this frustration with lack of action and the inability to recognize that changes need to be made to protect and prepare people gets straight to the point of what needs to be done.

“The state of Iowa recently received a “C+” grade in the “States at Risk: America’s Preparedness Report,” a new national analysis that grades states individually on their readiness to address flooding, extreme heat and drought. We can, and need, to do better. The report finds that while Iowa has taken action to address current natural disaster risks, the state needs to increase its awareness of future climate risks and also assess the underlying environmental issues that are causing these disasters to occur more frequently and with greater strength.

Until we take an honest look at the underlying cause for increased flooding, we won’t be able to avoid these disasters.

It’s time to take the politics out of environmental issues so we can work toward establishing a statewide plan to address future natural disasters and lessen their frequency and impact. Rural and urban communities in Iowa can work together to address issues and collaborate on ways to manage excessive soil erosion and other sustainable practices to preserve our rich farmland and the communities downstream. Through public and private partnerships, we can find solutions that work for everyone. (Des Moines Register)”

So the question lingers, what is the correct approach? What can be done to ensure that such disasters do not occur again? This is the not the first time that these areas have been hit with foods - so why are people failing to react and respond. In an article from The Independent, journalist Katie Grant has compiled 10 actions that can and should be taken to prevent further flooding. While these are specific to England, these measures can be implemented anywhere:

  1. Introduce better flood warning systems
  2. Modify homes and businesses to help them withstand floods
  3. Construct buildings above flood levels
  4. Tackle climate change
  5. Increase spending on flood defences
  6. Protect wetlands and introduce/plan trees strategically
  7. Restore rivers to their natural courses
  8. Introduce water storage areas
  9. Improve soil conditions
  10. Put up more flood barriers

(The Independent)

Now consider recent research by Kounkuey Design Initiative in Kenya of the rampant flooding in Kiberia:

“The team quickly recognized that Nairobi’s recent blitz of road construction, which greatly increased the amount of flat surfaces in the region but only included a few drainage channels funneling toward Kibera, was contributing to the flooding.

“People assume that the flooding problem comes from the river, but to see how much of that comes from the drainage — this data brings to light so many problems that wouldn’t be intuitive,” Odbert says.

Odbert says the robust data sets and resulting detailed maps have allowed KDI to advocate for county-level flood prevention strategies by bolstering partnerships between KDI and Nairobi public works departments to identify inefficient drainage channels and determine practical solutions for flood prevention. (enasia.com)”

The flooding in the Southern United States, Northern England and South America captured news headlines and has people talking. Time will tell whether any positive change will come out of the loss and destruction.

To read further analysis of these floods, use the following links: