by Paolo Scussolini, PhD – VU University Amsterdam
Throughout history, our ancestors have lived together with water, and with floods. River banks, deltas and coasts have always been favoured for human settlements, and civilization has greatly benefited from proximity to water. People have long experience of overflowing waters, threatening their possessions, their crops, their cattle and their lives, and they therefore have devised ways to cope with this natural phenomenon.
People protect themselves and their interests with different approaches: they built their homes on higher ground and on stilts; they build levees and dikes to stave off waters; or use experience to avoid settling in areas prone to flooding.
Protection to flooding changes the risk that communities face, with higher protection standards generally meaning less risk of damages and fatalities. As reiterated in the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction last year, the aim of the international community is to improve our understanding, and to quantify patterns of risk across the globe. This is important because it allows to identify the areas that suffer most, both now and in the future: the so-called risk-hotspots. With this knowledge, effective planning of risk-reducing actions can be carried out: building protection, building capacity and early warning and response systems, and in general, a more sound appraisal of the costs and benefits of investments in flood adaptation can be performed.
But understanding of flood risk, especially at large scales, is made difficult by the fact that for most places we simply do not know what the current standards of protection are.
For this reason, this side event the 2016 Understanding Risk Forum will bring together experts and practitioners from the flood risk community to exchange ideas and to improve the first global database of flood protection standards. This database, called FLOPROS (FLOod PROtection Standards), was recently set up by researchers in the Netherlands, at the Institute for Environmental Studies (IVM) and at Deltares, and collects information for all plausible sources in the literature, completing it with a modelling approach, to provide information on protection standards for most of the globe.
This work needs the contribution from the community of experts that operate especially in geographic areas where data are scarce, to compile information where it is presently still missing. Also, this information needs to be readily and freely available to risk-practitioners and researchers everywhere. For these two reasons, one of the aims of the side event is to coordinate the implementation of a website, where the database can both collect and provide information, from and to the large risk community.