Facing floods together in the Saxony-Lubuskie border area
When a river is threatening to burst its bank, urgent action is needed, and the region dealing with the crisis could probably do with a helping hand. It makes sense to request the assistance of the nearest neighbours, but if they are located in a different country, such collaboration can be a challenge… A project involving partners in Saxony and Lubuskie – adjoining regions in Germany and Poland – has built bridges between emergency services and administrations on each side of the border.
" The preparedness and dedication on both sides of the border are such that mutual support will be a given the event of a disaster, and we know that it will be provided without unnecessary complications or bureaucracy. "
Luckily, the new partnership has not had to deal with the real thing so far, says project leader Arian Leffs, who heads up the administration of the German municipality of Boxberg. It was, however, inspired by a disaster that hit his region only a few years ago: the devastating flood of the Lusatian Neisse in August 2010.
Committed to partnership…
In the wake of this calamity, partners on both sides of the border joined forces to optimise the communication between their emergency services in the event of a flood. The project, launched in January 2013, involved two counties in Poland and three municipalities in Germany: Żary and Żagań, both located in Lubuskie province, cooperating with Boxberg, Kreba-Neudorf and Rietschen on the Saxon side. It focused on the rivers in these five territories.
Together, the partners set up a crossborder network designed to facilitate a coordinated response. In addition to streamlining the communication among the participating fire departments and other emergency services, they enabled response teams on either side to exchange experience and hone their skills. Training activities organised as part of the project notably included joint workshops and disaster training exercises. As a further contribution to emergency preparedness, the project supported the acquisition of special equipment for rescue operations.
…come rain or come shine
The project ended in October 2014, but its legacy lives on, according to Leffs. The partners continue to meet, the teams are maintaining their freshly honed capabilities, and the underlying agreement to support each other should the waters rise again remains firmly in place, he notes. The project has laid solid foundations for coordinated action, which can thus be organised faster and more effectively.
And, beyond disaster response, the project seems to have paved the way for a wider partnership. The contacts it helped to initiate have developed into strong ties among participating teams and individuals, Leffs notes, pointing to the example of recent crossborder requests for assistance with various planned events. New joint projects are also being considered, he adds.
Clearly, it was a case of taking the first steps. “The implementation of the project and the various activities carried out to advance its objectives have helped to mitigate initial concerns – with regard to different languages, for example – and break down barriers between the participating Polish and German teams,” Leffs comments. “The shared determination to support one another in the face of a potential emergency is an asset to the safety of the inhabitants of our border area.”
Total investment and EU funding
Total investment for the project “Bekämpfung der ökologischen und Überschwemmungsgefahren auf den Flüssen der deutsch-polnischen Grenzregion” is EUR 646 292, with the EU’s European Regional Development Fund contributing EUR 543 550 through the “Germany (Saxony) - Poland” Operational Programme for the 2007-2013 programming period. The investment falls under the priority “Cross-border social integration”.