7.4 How to learn from the past…?

The concept of adaptive planning was already introduced in chapter 4. Policies are considered hypotheses that need to be tested in practice, and changed based on new insights. No matter how devastating flood events can be, they also provide an opportunity to evaluate and improve current flood risk management.  Good practices in this respect are the independent reviews in England and the use of momentum after flood events for stimulating change in Poland.

7.4.1 Independent flood management and response reviews: England

Strategies

Governance

Aims

In order to enhance transparency and accountability in flood risk governance, and to promote learning, independent reviews and public scrutiny of flood risk management and responses to significant events are organized. The idea lies in contributing positively to the evaluation of legitimacy and not to create a ‘scrutinising culture’ which attributes blame. Frequent reviews by Parliamentary Committees and the National Audit Office, as well as external reviews such as the Pitt Review help to enhance transparency and accountability. These independent reviews and select committees have in the past highlighted inefficiencies and ineffectiveness of warning arrangements. One example is  the Pitt Review which led to the formation of the Environment Agency / Meteorological Office joint Flood Forecasting Centre in 2009 (see §6.2.1). Another example from the Pitt review is the formalisation of responsibilities related to surface water flooding; more consistent legislation, namely the Flood and Water Management Act 2010, has also been established.

Local scrutiny boards are also established under the Flood and Water Management Act 2010 to evaluate local flood risk management strategies; although, there is evidence to suggest that this is lacking in some parts of the country. Ultimately, these mechanisms create pathways for institutional learning and improving current flood risk governance and practice (STAR-FLOOD Deliverable 3.3, see §8.2.1).

7.4.2 Flood events as a trigger for change: Poland

Strategies

Governance

Aims

The 1997 Millennium-flood in Poland triggered various changes. Before this flood event the focus in the country was mainly on social and economic issues. The flooding of 1997 brought flood issues back into the centre of cities’ agendas. Significant changes in planning and organisation were brought to life through governance instruments such as the Water Act of 2001 and the Programme for the Odra 2006 (which started to be developed in 1999). The city of Wroclaw was especially affected by the 1997 flood, with over 30% of the city flooded. Following the flood Wroclaw put greater effort into flood management. The degradation of dikes and drainage systems in Poland and mainly in the Wroclaw region provided a rational for applying more comprehensive measures against flooding, as part of a holistic flood protection scheme for the whole region. Following the structural changes after 1997, crisis management was much improved for the 2010 flood event.

Reviews of significant flood events have been used at the local and national level. These normally include an overview of the causes of flooding and the performance of defence and drainage infrastructure, as well as the performance of actors involved in flood incident response. Such l

earning from past events has proven to be very useful. However, it should be stressed that to develop a good adaptive flood capacity, learning should not be ad hoc, but a continuous, proactive and forward looking process (STAR-FLOOD Deliverable 3.6, see §8.2.1).