Restore our wetlands or face worse floods | WWF

Restore our wetlands or face worse floods

Posted on 26 September 2002
WWF, the international conservation organization, today called on the EU and national governments to do more to prevent future flooding and not to use the new “Solidarity Fund” to repeat the mistakes that have led to Europe’s recurring and intensifying floods. Otherwise, WWF warned, this trend will continue and possibly intensify in future. WWF pointed out that policies for flood mitigation exist in the new EU Water Framework Directive (WFD). This requires the joint management of all land and waters in a catchment, leading to improved land-use and reduced flooding - by preventing rapid run-off and utilising the natural water retention capacities of upland wetland and lowland floodplain areas. Traditional forms of flood protection do not work: as the dykes have got higher and higher, so have the floods. In light of the tragic, costly and catastrophic flooding events across Europe this summer, the time has come for governments to begin working with nature rather than against it. Governments – as part of their legal obligations under the WFD – must begin to use wetlands and floodplains as parts of an ecological approach to flood control. “Climate change is responsible for the erratic weather and extreme rainfall events which have triggered floods across the continent in the last few years” said Charlie Avis of WWF Danube-Carpathian Programme, which works along flooding rivers like the Tisza, Danube and Morava. “But we also know the very positive role wetlands and floodplains play in alleviating the worst damages of flooding, and we call upon the governments of Europe to give us all a sustainable future – restore our wetlands and free us of floods.” “Straightening of rivers from uplands to lowlands and excessive loss of natural inundation areas across the Elbe river basin, together with settlements right on the river banks have caused the unprecedented flooding damages this summer” said Georg Rast from the WWF-Auen-Institut in Germany. “We support the German government’s reaction to this catastrophe, but we also want to see concrete action on ecological flood management by 2004 at the international river conference it announced”. “We saw how the floodplains of the Morava absorbed the Danube flood wave and helped protect Bratislava from higher flooding levels,” says Dr. Jan Seffer, of the Daphne Institute for Applied Ecology in Slovakia, “and this effect could be multiplicated across the whole Danube basin to prevent future losses of life, property, and threats to human health – all is needed is governments to invest in nature rather than in hard, old-fashioned, engineering solutions”. WWF puts forward recommendations to promote environmentally-appropriate ways of dealing with future floods, often cheaper than the failed, traditional forms of flood control . These include to:  Ensure that implementation of the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD) is fast and efficient and: - Guarantees that existing wetlands and floodplains are able to function naturally and fully - Restores degraded wetlands and floodplains, and re-connects rivers with their floodplains - Removes obsolete man-made constraints on rivers and flood defences - Prevents further construction on floodplains - Retains water more effectively in upland areas through better soil, forest, and water management  Ensure that future EU spending – including in the transport sector – is compatible with the new approach enshrined in the WFD, in particular regarding wetland and floodplain conservation and restoration.  Integrate the WFD requirements into the mid-term review of the Common Agricultural Policy, the mid-term evaluation of the Structural Funds and the interim revision of the Trans-European Networks for Transport.  Undertake public awareness campaigns to inform the public about the risks of living in flood prone areas.  Implement comprehensive climate change policies, including a 10% target for new and renewable sources of energy. For further information contact: Tania Paschen, Communications Manager, WWF Living Waters Programme-Europe, mobile: +33 680 73 70 33, or Julian Scola, Communications Manager, WWF European Policy Office, tel +32 2 743 88 06, or Paul Csagoly, Communications Manager, WWF Danube-Carpathian Programme, tel: +36 30 250 58 69, licies for flood mitigati