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Flood protection—sustainability Issues

Hydrological sciences journal 1999 v.44 no.4 pp. 559-571
climate, dams (hydrology), ecosystems, flood control, floods, humans, infrastructure, rivers, sustainable development, uncertainty
There has been much recent emphasis on sustainable development of water resources in that the needs of the present generation are fulfilled without compromising future generations to meet their needs. Also, systems of flood protection and management are being increasingly considered in the context of sustainable development. Destructive floods have jeopardized settlements located near rivers since the dawn of human history. Now, the global flood losses have grown worldwide to the level of billions of US dollars per year. The issue of climate variability and change and the possibility of their adverse impacts on the severity and frequency of flooding, introduces an additional uncertainty to difficult sustainability issues. There are several examples of technical infrastructure related to flood protection, which are being criticized in the context of sustainable development because they close options for future generations and introduce unacceptable disturbances in ecosystems. Large structural flood defences like dams, storage reservoirs and embankments are often listed in this category. The means of coping with floods are looked at in the sustainability context. A change of paradigm is needed, as a flood protection system guaranteeing complete safety is an illusion. It is necessary to be aware of the possibility of floods, that is the attitude: “living with floods” seems more sustainable than a hopeless striving to “combat floods”.