MEPs stick to costly concrete to manage floods, say environmental NGOs

25 April 2007

Brussels / Strasbourg, April 25 2007 - The European Parliament has failed to promote the sustainable management of floods, warned the European Environmental Bureau, Friends of the Earth Europe and WWF. Voting on the Floods Directive in Strasbourg today, Members of the European Parliament stopped short of promoting an approach that works with natural defences like wetlands, floodplains and riverbank woodlands.

MEPs took a step towards sustainability relative to the Council of Ministers' proposed position, but drew criticism for still condoning the use of man-made concrete structures to constrain flooding.

Christian Schweer from Friends of the Earth Europe said: "As climate change increases the risk of floods, and water and land keep being used with insufficient consideration for natural ecosystems, it is likely that severe floods will hit Europe more frequently. Sustainable use of the whole river basin - particularly preserving and restoring floodplains - is the only efficient way to manage flood risks, while building concrete barriers to constrain rivers is short-sighted and expensive."

Relying on man-made constructions to manage floods can be unnecessarily expensive as concrete flood defences deteriorate over time and the costs of repairing them rise. Through their multifunctional properties, such as provision of drinking water, nutrient recycling and recreation, floodplains provide further crucial benefits for society.

The Floods Directive should have included strict measures to protect floodplains also because these are key habitats for many endangered species - like beavers, crested newts, European terrapins, salmon and black kites. But technical measures such as altering the river course and the upgrading of dykes will further degrade the habitats.

Sergiy Moroz from WWF highlighted: "We have already lost up to 80 per cent of our natural floodplains and man-made flood defences will certainly not improve the situation. This also plays against the EU's objective to halt the European loss of biodiversity by 2010."

According to environmental NGOs, the compromise agreed today will lead to difficulties in combining the provisions included in the Floods Directive and the Water Framework Directive - the cornerstone of EU water policy.

Pieter de Pous from the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) added: "Now the EU will end up with two parallel and possibly conflicting planning and reporting processes for the Floods Directive and the Water Framework Directive, increasing bureaucracy and waste administrative and public resources. This directive most certainly does not qualify as 'better regulation'."

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For more details on this directive, please see: http://www.foeeurope.org/publications/2007/EEB_FoEE_WWF_Flood_Risk_Brief_April07.pdf