NRW wants to better arm itself against floods

SEight months after the devastating flood in July, the North Rhine-Westphalian Environment Minister Ursula Heinen-Esser (CDU) presented a ten-point work plan for “flood protection in times of climate change”. “We need reliable tools and forecasts to be able to predict as early and as precisely as possible when and where there is a risk of flooding,” said the minister on Thursday.

In mid-July in Rhineland-Palatinate and in the south of North Rhine-Westphalia, days of constant rain turned small and medium-sized watercourses into torrential floods – extreme weather events like this are becoming more and more likely due to climate change. Dozens of towns were devastated; more than 180 people lost their lives, 49 of them in NRW.

After this terrible experience, flood prevention and flood protection should be raised to a new level, said Heinen-Esser. So far, the focus has been too much on large bodies of water like the Rhine. But the forecast standard there now serves as a model for smaller bodies of water, even if it is not possible to make forecasts three days in advance. “But every minute gained can help save lives.”

Organization of reporting channels is being reviewed

The work plan envisages that smaller bodies of water also get a forecast system as soon as possible. In a first step, a model-based forecast for the flood warning levels for the Rur, the Erft, the Sieg, the Ruhr and eight other rivers is to be introduced in the spring. A look at the numbers gives an idea that the construction of the entire system will take a long time: In North Rhine-Westphalia there are flowing waters with a total length of 14,000 kilometers, 438 streams and rivers are classified as risk waters over a length of 5900 kilometers.

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