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Shoring up Prague’s defences

Prague is one of Europe’s most beautiful cities and counts among its cultural capitals. UNESCO lists the historic centre of the old Czech city as a world heritage site.

Swelling waterways in the summer of 2002 threatened to submerge hundreds of years of architectural heritage in the Czech capital. Although devastating, the damage could have been much worse.

Prague’s City Crisis Committee was the nerve centre of the emergency operation. DHI, an EU-backed Danish research organisation, used their powerful MIKE 11 software – which took some 20 years to develop – to provide vital and accurate predictions of the behaviour of river flows.

This state-of-the-art rainfall and flood-modelling technology alerted the authorities to danger spots, enabling them to evacuate 200 000 people and save the old city from major damage.

Emergency workers used innovative and environmentally friendly flood protection technology. They wheeled in mobile steel-aluminium floodwalls to hold back the deluge. Plans are afoot for six more mobile barricades to defend low-lying areas of the city.

With EU assistance, the Czech authorities are putting in place long-term water management strategies to minimise the impact of future floods. Policy-makers, like their counterparts across Europe, are exploring adaptive approaches to flood management, such as the restoration of flood plains and the phasing out of high risk urban areas. 

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