Bottom up Adaptation Strategies for a Sustainable Europe

Flood control (Prague, Czech Republic)


The Climate Challenge

Prague, the capital city of the Czech Republic, is located in a temperate climate zone. Vltava River, the longest in the country, flows through its historical centre. In 2002 Prague experienced severe 500-year flooding with total damages of 24 billion CZK (1 billion EUR). This event was recognized as one of the most expensive weather-related disasters in the city's history. Future climate scenarios furthermore predict an increase in the number and intensity of extreme events such as flooding. Wetter winters, dryer summers with more precipitation extremes and weather fluctuations in general are also expected.


The Adaptation Response

A flood protection system in Prague had been in the planning for decades, but the works themselves began just in the beginning of the new millennium. After finishing the first phase of the works (partial protection of historical centre of Prague) the city was hit by the 500-year flood in 2002 and the original plans were upgraded to increase resilience against even events of such extremity. The adaptation measures of flood control system implemented include fixed barriers (levees, dykes), mobile barriers and additional measures such as closures and pumping systems in the canalisation. The total length of flood protection measures (fixed barriers, solid concrete walls and mobile barriers) after the completion of all stages is approx. 19.255 km, of which mobile measures are 6.925 km.


The people and institutions involved

The responsibility for flood protection measures as implemented since 1997 is divided at the national level between the Ministry of Agriculture, which is responsible primarily for implementation of technical measures, and the Ministry of the Environment, which together with various non-governmental organizations and local initiatives promotes ‘‘green’’ adaptation measures. Governance responsibilities are highly fragmented between these two actors, which results in reduced efficiency in the climate change adaptation process.

At the regional level, Prague City Hall cooperates with the Povodí Vltavy, a state enterprise, in the implementation of flood control measures on the Vltava River and on smaller watercourses. Some environmentally oriented organizations and local initiatives of citizens raising suggestions are also involved in the adaptation process. In case of Prague, the stakeholders involved include Prague City Hall, affected Prague districts, political representation, the Czech Hydrometeorological Institute, Povodí Vltavy - Vltava River Basin and professional companies (eg. Hydrosoft).


The Outcome of Action

The flood protection system of Prague is now finished and protects most parts of Prague from 500-year floods. It consists of grey infrastructure; that is, mostly of fixed and mobile barriers and safety valves in the canalisation network. Greener strategies or approaches have been largely missing on the Vltava River. However, these approaches are implemented when revitalizing smaller streams in the city (e.g. Rokytka). It is clear that green and blue infrastructure would only serve as additional support to the flood barriers but it could be still very useful, for example to tackle flash floods caused by extreme precipitation. Problems arising during the approval and permit process of the flood control system included questions of property rights and land use. The historical center in the Troja area posed a particular challenge as the heritage preservation authorities required the flood control measures to be as discrete as possible.



Eliška Krkoška Lorencová,


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