05 May 2016, 15:05

Investment in Flood Protection - Investment in Damage Elimination

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) organized presentation of the Study on improvement of protection against waters in the Kolubara basin and analysis of financial aspects of natural disasters.

Investment into prevention of natural disaster and protection against flooding could significantly reduce losses, and also expenses related to the elimination of damage which could occur in future - this was the main conclusion of the Study on Flood Risk Management in the Kolubara Basin presented today to the public in the Media Centre.
Through the presentation of the two new publications devoted to further improvement of the vitality of local communities in Serbia in terms of responding to emergencies, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and its partners contribute to further reduction of any future flood risk.

Irena Vojáčková-Sollorano, UN Resident Coordinator in Serbia who supported preparation of the Study, stated that "investment in prevention is not expenditure but an investment in damage elimination".

Global estimates suggest that one dollar invested in protection saves nine dollars of losses, underscored Sollorano.

Analyses in Serbia show that the ratio of investment in prevention and elimination of damage is such that one invested dinar saves between three and nine dinars in elimination of damage once it occurs.

Sollorano stressed that a lot had been done in Serbia in the past two years, since the flooding in May 2014, not only through repair and reconstruction of destroyed facilities, but also through cooperation with the Government of Serbia in terms of efforts to assess future risks and strengthen disaster defence capacities.

Analysis of Financial Aspects of Natural Disasters was conducted in cooperation with the UNDP Regional Bureau for Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States, through the case study of the devastating flooding which occurred in 2014.

The findings of the study were presented by its author Marija Bijelić, who, together with the co-author Marko Lazarević, established the relation between investing in prevention and the cost of flood damage.

Co-author of the Study Marija Bijelić noted that there was an upward trend of disasters in Serbia year after year, and that the floods in May 2014 had been the worst in the last 120 years, since they hit 22 percent of the population in two thirds of municipalities.

"The damage has been estimated at EUR 1.7 billion, which is around 4.8 percent of Serbia's GDP", Bijelic pointed out, stressing that the legal framework for reconstruction following flooding in Serbia at that time was also inadequate.

That was why, she said, the Government formed the Office for Reconstruction and Flood Relief to ensure the fairest possible allocation of reconstruction resources.

Bijelić underscored that in the past two years Serbia had taken steps in the right direction but that there was still a lot left to do in terms of risk prevention, starting from adoption of appropriate laws, construction of institutions, strengthening of the risk recognition and monitoring system, structural and non-structural risk reduction, and other measures.

As a good example of prevention, she mentioned construction of the torrent-check dam in Novi Pazar in 2013, the town that would sustain damage every previous year in the amount of EUR 1 million due to water borne deposition.

The total of EUR 420,000 was invested in the project, she said, noting that Novi Pazar, among other towns, was hit by heavy rains in May 2014.

However, the dam managed to defend the town from the flood wave, so that the investment paid off already in the first year following construction, underlined Bijelić.

The fact that prevention is better than cure is confirmed also by the partners in the implementation of the comprehensive Study on Flood Risks in the Kolubara basin, which gathered, under the guidance of the Jaroslav Černi Institute, the leading experts from different ministries, local self-governments in the Kolubara basin, public companies such as PWME Srbijavode, and other interested parties.

The study was implemented owing to the support of the Government of Japan, in partnership with the Public Investment Management Office.

Director of the Office for Reconstruction and Flood Relief Marko Blagojević made it known that the studies on risk management would soon be made for the river basins of Južna and Zapadna Morava as well, stressing that construction of a series of new flood defence structures was currently under way.

According to him, one could not say that Serbia is now ready for future floods, but what one could say is that it is "more ready" (than before).

"We started and will continue working, since in the past three decades we just sat twiddling our thumbs", said Blagojević, underlining that Serbia was not facing only floods but also landslides, draughts and other natural disasters.

"The US estimates suggest that in the past 25 years, Serbia lost around USD 500 million a year due to draughts, and on the other hand, we also have floods", said Blagojević, noting that an adequate flood protections system could also provide an irrigation system at times when we need water.

Analysis of Financial Aspects of Natural Disasters is available on the Internet page of the UNDP in Serbia, in its original English version.

Study on Flood Risks in the Kolubara Basin is available on a separate Internet presentation on the address:

Infographic of the Public Investment Management Office with an overview of construction of new flood defence structures and non-structural measures.