CORFU – Co-operation... the key to flood resilience
Flooding is set to become a major challenge for cities in Europe and Asia due to changes in climate and demographic trends. Robust flood-prevention strategies tailored to specific regional requirements are required. The best way to accomplish this, according to an EU-funded project, is to share experience and knowledge.
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Millions of people live in cities and urban areas susceptible to flooding. Without adequate protection, lives and property are at risk. There is growing acceptance that putting in place protective measures and integrating adaptable flood-management plans for a variety of scenarios will not only save lives, but will be hugely cost-effective in the long run.
This is what CORFU, a collaborative EU-backed research programme focusing on flood resilience in urban areas, is all about. The team, which includes Asian partners, is developing new tools to improve flood-management strategies worldwide. In this way, the project will help to implement the UN Hyogo Framework for Action - a ten-year plan to make the world safer from natural hazards - along with the EU Flood Directive.
The starting point of CORFU is that problems associated with urban flooding in Asia and in Europe vary greatly, ranging from levels of economic development and age of infrastructure to drainage methods and rainfall patterns.
Deeper understanding of floods
"Cities in Europe and Asia can learn from each other, through joint research and the sharing of ideas, knowledge and best practice, which will lead to advances in flood management," explains project coordinator Slobodan Djordjevic.
These improvements will be based on the latest techniques and scientific knowledge, and aim to make the cities more "flood resilient" - better able to prepare for, cope with, respond to, and recover from the shocks that flooding can cause.
The project partners are also keen to expand and deepen scientific knowledge underpinning flood-risk management, and to develop new tools to allow us to better understand flood risk. Similarly, in order to evaluate the effectiveness of flood-resilience strategies, CORFU will work to improve our understanding of impacts that flooding can have on the cities' inhabitants. An example of this is the risk of infectious diseases that can follow flooding.
"We also aim to make... technical and scientific advances in hydraulic modelling, real-time flood forecasting, as well as in the identification of state-of-the-art flood-management strategies, which include both 'hard' engineering solutions and 'softer' strategies that involve understanding the behaviour of people when exposed to flooding," says Dr Djordjevic.
Facing future challenges
The project has already produced some excellent ideas. For example, advanced models have been created that can show how cities may develop over time, taking into account changes to global and regional economies as well as population growth.
A novel software tool that allows scientists to estimate the impacts of flooding is also currently being applied in different cities. This tool will be used to evaluate the effectiveness of different resilience strategies for future development scenarios.
"A further exciting development is a tool that will enable us to model the spread of pathogens from combined sewers in flood waters," says Dr Djordjevic. "By relating pathogen concentrations and exposure times to the vulnerability of the population, we will soon be able to quantify health impacts of urban flooding more reliably."
The CORFU consortium is confident that the project will bring numerous benefits to communities at risk from urban flooding worldwide. It will help cities to identify scientifically sound, effective flood-resilient strategies, and provide the framework for cities to learn from each other. Thanks to the international make-up of CORFU, the team will ensure that findings of the project will reach a global audience, helping other cities to become more resilient to flooding.