Bottom up Adaptation Strategies for a Sustainable Europe

Central European flooding: Focus on the Czech Republic

In late May and early June 2013, Central Europe - in particular the Czech Republic, Germany, Slovakia, Hungary, and Poland - was facing severe flooding mainly caused by the heavy rainfall in a number of already saturated river basins.

In the Czech Republic, the flooding was not as severe and destructive as the flooding experienced in 2002. Nevertheless, 10 fatalities were recorded with around 20,000 people forced to leave their homes and 700 municipalities affected by the floods in total. On 2nd June 2013 the Czech government announced a state of emergency in seven regions, in an area covering half the Czech Republic. Thus far, the estimated damages to property are estimated at between 386 and 773 million EUR.

The levels recorded in the Labe (Elbe) River in the city of Ústí nad Labem were almost at 50-year flood level. The Labe had the highest flow rate of 3,710 cubic metres per second (average is 293m3/s), reaching a water level of 10.72 metres (average is 2.48m).

In Prague, the Vltava (Moldau) River had the highest flow at 3,210 cubic metres per second; more than twenty times higher than average annual flow rate. In addition, small streams and rivers in Prague (e.g. Rokytka, Botič) also caused local flooding. In many places, technical constructions, such as flood defences were built to protect the historical city centre from flooding. Due to high river flow levels, a large part of the underground transport system was closed, causing major disruptions to public mobility in Prague.

This extreme event is highly relevant to one of the Czech case studies in BASE project. The case study focuses on improving flood risk management in Prague, where current flood measures are mainly technical in character. The main aim of the research is to enhance the adaptive capacity of the city through promoting new and more adaptive approaches that will take into account a broader range of possible solutions (technical, non-technical, green). Together with city representatives, water managers, local planners and other stakeholders, the BASE team will evaluate current adaptation measures and develop potential sustainable measures.

The recent floods have revealed the vulnerability and fragility of Prague’s human infrastructure to flooding and the need to increase the city’s capacity to adapt to the increasing frequency of extreme weather. The preparedness and response to these kinds of events has been substantially enhanced since 2002. Nevertheless, there is a need for greater debate in the Czech Republic on the need for effective adaptation action.

By Eliška Lorencová, Blanka Loučková, David Vačkář (Czech Globe)

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