Learning example: Tisza river basin (Hungary)
|by Piotr Matczak and Darryn McEvoy|
Context and driving forces for change
Adaptation, in the context of managing flood risks, is an activity with a long history driven primarily by a desire to avoid economic and social losses. Options are commonly founded on local knowledge accumulated over a period of time and typically involve hard engineering interventions to control river flow. As such, much flood prevention activity can be considered traditional rather than 'new' or innovative. However, there are emerging multiple stressors that are acting to increase flood risk and hence influence the need for, and type of, adaptation. It is argued that this increasing complexity demands a more holistic response, with adjustments across social, economic and ecological systems, in order to ensure truly sustainable development in the longer term.
The move away from traditional hard engineering solutions towards more softer options and 're-naturalisation' of water courses is evidenced by 'Making Space for Water' in the UK, by the increasing use of retention reservoirs in the Netherlands, and a change in policy emphasis for the Rhine and Meuse river basins in Germany where strategies based on natural flood management techniques are being supported by EU grants. This softer approach to flood management is also being complemented by partial, incremental adaptation measures e.g. the enhancement of dykes in critical locations and more widespread use of portable panels.
Many multiple stressors are present in the context of the Tisza river basin. Having experienced substantial human modification over the past 130 years; including the development of large-scale mono-agriculture areas, drainage of floodplains, and deforestation of upper-stream areas; the basin is increasingly subject to not only serious flooding events but also problems of seasonal droughts and associated environmental problems such as salinisation, water stagnation, and degradation of wetlands. At the same time, the area also suffers from a range of structural socio-economic problems such as a high unemployment rate, aging and migration of the younger sections of society, ethnic minority tensions, as well as unclear property rights / policy responsibilities and low levels of social capital, said to derive from the Communist era (Werners et al, 2009). Recent catastrophic events e.g. the floods of 2001 which broke the protective levees and caused extensive damage estimated at 180 million US$ (Vari et al, 2003), have further contributed to a decline in ecological, economic and socio-political capital in the region.
© 2009 ADAM, Adaptation and Mitigation Strategies: Supporting European climate policy