FLOODCOM CONFERENCE SHARES BEST PRACTICE IN FLOOD ALLEVIATION

FLOODCOM CONFERENCE SHARES BEST PRACTICE IN FLOOD ALLEVIATION

“Adapt to mitigate the effects of flooding rather than trying to prevent it happening”; that was the key message from a conference held last week, with an aim to share best practice in flood alleviation.

76 people registered for the one-day event which took place on Wednesday 24 September in Antwerp, Belgium. The Floodcom.eu conference welcomed delegates from low-laying parts of Europe, to hear about how the project has shared knowledge, enterprise and innovation in flood alleviation practice.

In his introduction speech, Councillor John Jowers from Essex County Council, England commented: “Nature is stronger than 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, Researcher at Antwerp University talked about ‘whether climate change will change the ecology of our estuaries?’ “Yes, undoubtedly it will.” He explained. “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, and 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 commented: “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 MBE, Deputy Head of Service, Essex Civil Protection & Emergency Management, then presented on co-ordination and 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 OBE, gave her personal experience on 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 to the organisation that administrates and funds 24 projects involving 130 plus 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.

Simon Hooton, Head of Strategy and Projects, The Broads Authority in England attended the conference. He commented: I found the Floodcom event extremely helpful. It was very useful to see the range of ideas being developed across Europe to tackle flood resilience. In particular, the education project is a great way to enable children to understand the issues surrounding flooding.”

On their departure, each delegate was presented with a Floodcom Toolkit. The toolkit builds on the information presented in the afternoon workshop sessions and gives more detailed information, as well as practical guides to aid the sharing of issue around flood alleviation and delivering best practice. A free version of the toolkit can be downloaded at www.floodcom.eu.

-ENDS-

For further information contact Sue Wilcock on +44 (0) 1473213000 or sue@trebuchetcreative.co.uk

The Floodcom initiative is a European funded project involving five partners across four European countries. From the UK, Essex County Council and Chelmsford City Council. From Belgium, Waterweegen en Zeekanaal NV, in Antwerp. From France IIW, in St Omer and from the Netherlands, the City of Breda. For more information visit: www.floodcom.eu

Rosanna Briggs MBE has published documents and guidance notes which can be downloaded for free from http://www.whatif-guidance.org.

Mary Dhonau has published the ‘Home Owners Guide to Flood Resilience – A Living Document’ which can be downloaded for free at www.knowyourfloodrisk.co.uk.