Floods in south Bohemia re-open debate on inadequate prevention

Prague Island Kampa under water, Photo:CTK

As the inhabitants of south Bohemia struggle to deal with the effects of last week's devastating floods, planning specialists are criticizing the authorities for inadequate flood prevention measures which they say could have prevented loss of life and minimized the material damage. Pavel Puncohar who is in charge of flood prevention at the agriculture ministry says that negligence in regional planning goes back a long way and is a problem that many European states face today.

Sobenov in the southern Bohemia, Photo:CTK
As the inhabitants of south Bohemia struggle to deal with the effects of last week's devastating floods, planning specialists are criticizing the authorities for inadequate flood prevention measures which they say could have prevented loss of life and minimized the material damage. Pavel Puncohar who is in charge of flood prevention at the agriculture ministry says that negligence in regional planning goes back a long way and is a problem that many European states face today.

"Inadequate flood prevention is a problem common to all central European states mainly due to the fact that in the course of the last century floods in this part of the world were scarce and did not cause severe damage. As a result the last decade of the twentieth century with its frequent and often devastating floods came a surprise and only then did most of the central European countries start work in earnest on flood prevention. So I agree that flood prevention has been neglected but it is not something that has been neglected in the last few years - the problem goes a long way back."

So what is the situation like now - what is it that we lack?

"We need more flood release basins along our rivers, areas which could be used as reservoirs when the water level gets too high. In combination with the dams that have already been built this would prove most effective."

Hundreds of homes in this country have been built perilously close to the water and it seems that trees and bushes along our river banks have also been cut down at random...would it not help to focus on regional planning in this respect as well...plant trees along river banks and so on....

"Yes, that is a problem. We have mapped only some of the potential flood areas along the main rivers -50 to 60% of potential flood zones - the rest has not been mapped and in these areas inappropriate regional planning complicates the situation and increases the damages. Now we have launched a four year flood prevention programme -thanks to a loan from the European investment bank and money from the state budget. This programme will take place between 2002 and 2005 and we expect it to substantially improve the situation in the high risk areas of Moravia and north Bohemia. The rough estimate of expenditures needed over the next ten years -which would remedy the situation - is between 10 and 30 billion crowns."

Is that feasible?

"It depends on how much flooding we have to deal with - and on the immediate expenditures connected with these floods which obviously need to be met . However I feel that the lower end of the estimate - 10 billion over the next ten years is a realistic goal."