Opening the flood gates

Ines Nastali, DPC Editor

When this edition of DPC went to print, parts of northern England in the UK battled severe floods caused by massive rainfall that have, in parts, been lasting for weeks. For example, the county of South Yorkshire received a month’s worth of rain in just one day.

There have been calls by citizens, scientists, and the UK’s National Farmers’ Union – fearing for the harvest – that rural areas have got a raw deal in terms of flood protection; especially considering that those flood events will likely increase in future owing to climate change.

The farmers union has therefore called for dredging of the surrounding rivers to alleviate the flood risk, with the River Don, for example, being a tidal river that brings in silt from the Humber and the North Sea as well as water coming down hill from the protected Sheffield area.

While that area, affected by floods a decade ago, has received upgraded prevention systems, the infrastructure in less protected areas was hit by the unstoppable power of the flood waters. However, investment in flood protection should not be knee jerk reaction. Consequently, a more holistic approach is needed to assess where investment is required and can be most impactful.

These events show that time is of the essence to increase flood protection. Farmers claimed the currently experienced rainfall is the worst in their living memory. Dredging can therefore only serve as a stop gap that needs to be complemented by flood gates, higher dykes, and flood plains.

This area of the UK is not the only one being battered by flooding. The mayor of Venice, Italy, Luigi Brugnaro, warned that the impact of climate change has directly aggravated floods. Here too, dredging has been useful to progress the MOSE project, which has been under way to build flood gates to protect the lagoon tourist spot from flood events, with artificial islands created that house the technical equipment for the gates.

Unfortunately, this project was not realised quick enough to prevent damage. Maybe these events will act as a warning that a more proactive approach is required. In any case, the dredging industry should be prepared to get involved in similar projects.