Floods and the Norwegians / Columns / The Foreigner

Floods and the Norwegians. COMMENTARY: Norway has been suffering devastating river flood damage, not only over the past month, but also during recent years.

norwayflooding, cicero, gaulariver



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Floods and the Norwegians

Published on Wednesday, 7th September, 2011 at 15:45 under the columns category, by Ilan Kelman.
Last Updated on 7th September 2011 at 17:08.

COMMENTARY: Norway has been suffering devastating river flood damage, not only over the past month, but also during recent years.

Flood-hit areas, Hedemark and Oppland
Flood-hit areas, Hedemark and Oppland
Photo: Prime Minister's Office/Flickr


Looking back over past centuries, major river flood catastrophes have always occurred here. Several hundred died along the Gaula River in 1345. In eastern Norway, flooding killed over 70 people in 1789.

Fortunately, river flood deaths have been rarer in recent times, but that could change with any new event if we are not careful. Most problems these days are property disruption and damage, partly because we own more that can be ruined.

Fewer deaths in Norway are also partly linked to the fact there is a long history of managing rivers by relying on walls--dams, levees, and dikes. However, any wall has limited effectiveness. When (not if) a wall's flood design limit is exceeded, the land behind it floods. Ultimately, we cannot stop the water.

People living on floodplains tend to be unprepared because it was thought the wall would protect them. In many cases, they built on floodplains because they assumed that the wall would prevent all floods.

So why forcibly separate people and water? Why assume that we can control nature to our liking? Why not let floodplains -- called that for a reason -- do their job?

Let rivers behave as rivers, spreading out when it rains or when the snow melts. Use walls occasionally, but do not rely on them. River floods are part of Norway's environment. They are a natural process.

No sudden change is occurring leading to more floods. Instead, disasters happen when humans get in the way of floods, which is the reason for a higher occurrence of destructive ones.

We can stop that destruction by recognising that floods are normal and reduce building in the water's way.

Disasters can be halted by permitting floods.

Dr. Ilan Kelman is a Senior Research Fellow at the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research - Oslo (CICERO).




Published on Wednesday, 7th September, 2011 at 15:45 under the columns category, by Ilan Kelman.
Last updated on 7th September 2011 at 17:08.

This post has the following tags: norwayflooding, cicero, gaulariver.





  
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