Danube flood damage taking a toll on people's lives and economy

Posted on 14 July 2010    
Many islands in the Bulgarian/Romanian section of the Danube will be destroyed by river regulation.
Solutions within arms reach, says new WWF report

Bucharest, Romania – Brussels, Belgium– As the Danube threatened to burst its banks again last week, a new WWF study shows that restoring the natural capacity of the Danube floodplains to retain flood waters would help protect people from flood impacts, would cost much less than the damages caused by floods, and, in addition, would provide important benefits to nature, people, and local economies.

Human intervention in the Danube area has degraded and more than halved floodplains that can retain water and minimise flood impacts.

“This year Romania, for example, has been hit again by severe storms and floods, which have killed 25 people and forced 16,500 more to leave their homes. Unfortunately the frequency and intensity of flood events is expected to continue. The good news is that the solutions for flood management that work with nature, not against it exist and are within arms reach”, said Orieta Hulea, Head of Freshwater at the WWF Danube-Carpathian Programme.

Floodplains are like natural sponges, they act as natural storage reservoirs allowing large volumes of water to be stored and slowly and safely released down rivers and into the groundwater. If cut off from the main river beds and drained for agriculture, as has happened on the lower Danube and across most of Europe in the last century, their potential for flood retention is lost and the risks from floods are increased.

The WWF study “Assessment of the restoration potential along the Danube and main tributaries” estimates the potential for floodplain restoration at about 800,000 ha along the Danube, about 500,000 ha of this in the lower Danube. The Danube River Basin Management Plan, which was officially adopted by all Danube countries, including both EU and non-EU member states, already includes 473,000 ha of floodplain in Romania to be reconnected with the river. But the implementation of these measures is planned to start only after 2015 mainly due to insufficient allocation of financial resources and land ownership issues.

WWF calculated that if at least 100,000 ha from these potential areas would be restored – at an estimated cost of 500,000 €/km² - this would mean an investment of 500 million €, costing less than the damages caused by floods or the investment in higher and stronger dykes. The restoration of the 196 areas with highest potential identified by WWF along the longest European river would cost about 6 billion Euro.

The EU Commission and Danube countries are currently developing an EU Danube Strategy in order to tackle specific challenges facing the region, including socio-economic development, sustainable transport, biodiversity and water and flood risk management.

“If the EU Danube Strategy is to become an effective tool to guarantee the necessary political commitment and funds to protect the Danube’s people and its rich biodiversity, floodplain restoration needs to become one of its key priority actions. The recent floods that have hit the area show us that inaction till 2015 is not an option. We need to make sure that at least one large scale restoration project is implemented in each Danube country by 2015. ” said Sergey Moroz, EU Water Policy Officer at WWF.

For further information:
Orieta Hulea, Head of Freshwater, WWF Danube-Carpathian Programme
Tel: +40 730098711
E-mail: ohulea@wwfdcp.ro

Sergey Moroz, Freshwater Policy Officer, WWF European Policy Office
Tel  +32 (0)2 740 09 23
E-mail: smoroz@wwfepo.org

Notes to editors
(1)    Schwarz, U., 2010. Assessment of the restoration potential along the Danube and main tributaries. Working paper, WWF Danube-Carpathian Programme, Vienna:

(2)    Schwarz, U., Bratrich, C., Hulea, O., Moroz, S., Pumputyte, N., Rast, G., Bern, M. R. and Siposs, V., 2006. 2006 Floods in the Danube River Basin: Flood risk mitigation for people living along the Danube and the potential for floodplain protection and restoration. Working paper, WWF Danube-Carpathian Programme, Vienna.

Many islands in the Bulgarian/Romanian section of the Danube will be destroyed by river regulation.
© WWF DCP Enlarge

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