Brussels, 20 July 2005 - The European Commission is seeking the views of citizens and organisations in Europe on forthcoming EU action to reduce the risk of floods to people, property and the environment. Starting today, an internet consultation will run for eight weeks. The results will feed into a proposal for a Floods Directive, which is one of the components of an action programme on flood risk management that the Commission is preparing. It is foreseen that the action programme will also comprise actions to improve the exchange of information and knowledge, and targeted use of EU funding.
Commissioner for the Environment Stavros Dimas said the recent floods in Romania, Bulgaria, Austria and the West Flanders region of Belgium had shown once again how catastrophic flooding can cause human tragedy, disrupt economic life and undermine Europe's progress towards sustainable development.
He added: "Floods are a natural phenomenon but there are ways to prevent them or at least to limit their impacts and thereby protect ourselves more effectively. Concerted action can improve flood protection all over Europe. We need better coordination involving the participation of all Member States to achieve this goal."
How to participate in the public consultation?
The internet consultation will run until 14 September 2005. The questionnaire is available via the following link: http://europa.eu.int/comm/environment/water/flood_risk/consult.htm
Why an action programme?
Human activities such as the clearing of forests, the straightening of rivers, the suppression of natural flood plains and poor land planning have contributed significantly to increasing the risk of floods.
Moreover, this risk will probably increase during the coming decades. Two trends point to this. Firstly, the magnitude and frequency of floods are likely to increase in the future as a result of climate change, which is expected to lead to higher intensity of rainfall as well as rising sea levels.
The second trend is that the impact of flood events may become heavier because greater numbers of people are living in areas at risk of flooding and more economic assets (business and industry) are located in such areas.
To manage the risk of floods better, it is firstly important to identify the areas at risk, and to determine the extent of that risk. This information is important for spatial planners but also for other authorities and for the people living in those areas so that they can prepare themselves. Secondly, it is essential to develop a plan at river basin level and for coastal areas to prevent problems from being passed on from one area to another. For this reason, the Commission intends to develop a proposal for a directive which will require the development and implementation of flood maps and flood risk management plans. The Commission will also ensure that, where appropriate, all relevant EU policies, including the Common Agricultural Policy and the new Cohesion policy, contribute to flood risk management.
For more information on the planned action programme and the Communication on flood risk management of July last year (1), see: http://europa.eu.int/comm/environment/water/flood_risk/index.htm
(1) Communication on Flood risk management; flood prevention, protection and mitigation, COM(2004)472