STAR-FLOOD is active at conference Deltas in Times of Climate Change II

From 24 to 26 September, several STAR-FLOOD researchers and consultants attended the second edition of this leading delta conference in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. They exchanged knowledge with other researchers and practitioners in several workshops, oral presentations and poster presentations, as summarized below. Remarkable about the whole conference is that besides technical aspects of delta management, more and more attention goes out to governance of delta’s throughout the world.

Together with Peter van Veelen (City of Rotterdam), Martijn Steenstra (Grontmij) organized the session “Resilient cities talk: Best practices and remaining challenges on creating resilient urban waterfronts “. After a short introduction by chairman Camiel van Drimmelen (City of Amsterdam), Martijn Steenstra introduced STAR-FLOOD and raised a first challenge: cooperation between parties in order to realize an integrated flood risk management approach. Then, four cities presented their best practices:

  • London has extensive experience in developing a long-term strategy to deal with tidal flood risk (Thames 2100) and is now developing a strategy to deal with local, heavy rainfall;
  • Gothenburg is in the process of developing strategies towards more flood resilience;
  • Hamburg is one of the leading cities in flood resilient waterfront development;
  • In Rotterdam local flood risk are significantly reduced by small scale measures, integrating flood risk management and urban redevelopment processes.

Several remaining governance challenges were identified. The challenges included which strategy to choose (e.g., barriers and dikes and/or building regulations and/or insurance), how to protect critical infrastructure, how to develop sector specific guidance, how to include private sources of financing, whether taxes for surface water runoff are feasible, how to raise awareness and motivate individuals to take their own measures, and how to deal with uncertainty in future design water levels. The scientific panel consisting of Prof. Kundzewicz (Polish Academy of Sciences) and Dries Hegger (Utrecht University) discussed the presented best practices and challenges. Remarkable were the active participation of two experts from Bangladesh, the wish for more discussion time and the idea to continue the exchange between cities in the future.

Hannelore Mees (Antwerp University) presented in the Session Disaster reduction and emergencies, regional perspectives. Her presentation evaluated flood crisis management in Flanders, based on results from the STAR-FLOOD case studies in Antwerp and Geraardsbergen. She focused on two main bottlenecks: the lack of citizen involvement and lack of resources. In terms of citizen involvement both in Antwerp and Geraardsbergen there was a discrepancy between the discourses used by the government and by the population. Policy makers say citizens should share responsibility in flood management but citizens consider this as an exclusive government responsibility. Also the use of volunteers is fairly limited, despite the fact that they could form an important contribution to counter the second bottleneck, the lack of resources. In smaller municipalities fire brigades appear to struggle significantly to get the human resources they need to effectively combat floods.

Dries Hegger presented an overview of preliminary results of the STAR-FLOOD project in a session on Flood Risk Management Challenges in national policies. The session was a truly interdisciplinary one, in which Dries represented the governance angle. In his presentation he reflected on the main similarities and differences between the STAR-FLOOD consortium countries (The Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden, France, Poland and England) based on the work carried out by the STAR-FLOOD researchers in these countries. Based on the findings, he argued that good practices cannot uncritically be transferred from one context to another, but their appropriateness should be critically scrutinized. The STAR-FLOOD project will continue reflecting on its starting assumption that diversifying Flood Risk Management Strategies makes regions more resilient to flood risk.

Finally, Maria Kaufman (Radboud University Nijmegen) presented a poster summarizing the research results regarding flood risk management and governance arrangements in the Netherlands. Her key message: Institutional change in the Netherlands is incremental, due to a high level of path dependency. That might limit the effects of broadening flood risk management strategies. And Carel Dieperink (Utrecht University) gave a presentation on Governance challenges related to a diversification of flood risks management strategies in a session on Multilevel governance of adaptation.

Visit the conference website for more information, presentations and reports.