Author: engineer Oliver Kovács, dep. Director, Office of the Košice Self-governing Region
Perceived change in climate over the world begins to be negatively felt in our geographical latitudes, too. Increasing global surface temperature, extreme temperature differences in a short period cause so far unprecedented progress of the weather: dry periods with deficient rainfall are followed by periods of excessive rainfall that is impossible to be absorbed and accumulated by the surface, which causes hydrological cycle disruption in nature. More and more often there occur such rainfalls: in small river basins enormous amount of water fall to the ground and runs down unrestrainedly over surface into watercourses causing so-called flash floods with inconceivable material and moral consequences. As the process of climate change and by it caused extremely devastating floods did not occurred from one day to another, nor can the measures proposed by the experts solve and reverse the unfavourable situation in foreseeable future. It is already high time to finally start to rescue what you can.
For changing given state, there are many proposals of the experts – technocrats and environmentalists – who prefer and try to impose solutions close to nature. However, these solutions are not a priority because in the temporal dimension the technical solution of flood protection seems to be faster and more efficient solution for the affected population. The best solution would be a synthesis of proposals from either side: the current protection of the population, conducted in a relatively short time, combined with systemic measures, beneficially influencing the climate in the affected area, mitigating extreme weather events. The long term goal is to change the method of management in the country.
In the forestry, it is necessary to increase the accumulation capability of forest vegetation through “tailor-made” management for a particular area, selection system of the management; in intensive methods it is possible to mitigate the impact on micro-climate by extending the period of vegetation regeneration.
In agriculture it is necessary to find the consensus between the cultivation of today economically attractive crops and the cultivation crops that prevent soil erosion (by wind or water) and its degradation by nutrients washing out. Important is also the method of cultivation of arable land (at each level line) and rebuilding of groves and baulks as natural seepage paths slowing surface water run-off from pastures and meadows, construction of dams on small watercourses / rivers. These are old proven methods of water retention in the area. It is a suitable, long-term and stable solution, while there is no water in the watercourses passing through built-up areas of municipalities. At that point our standpoint changes from being conceptual, strategic to “currently best“ that has the only objective – to protect citizens and their property. We come with the technical solutions that may be possible solutions for a particular community, however, do not address the situation on the water flow down the village, they even worsen the situation. A chain reaction takes place, when by constructing “slides” of concrete bank fortifications on the most part of watercourses through municipalities, comes to the unprotected municipality a flood wave of enormous water amount and at high speed, which in surprise we only consider as a so-called “flash flood” caused by ourselves.
Of course, technical measures in the watercourse will enable flood effects mitigation, but they must be reasonably carried out according to watercourse area (upper, middle, lower).
On the upstream of the river basin it is necessary to impound as much water (above) as possible, to slow its flow, to decrease the energy accumulating in the reservoirs and dams, because it is clear that the objects on the upper rivers flows are most affected by damage to real property (including roads, bridges), which are caused by water erosion (washing out).
On the central course it is necessary to stiffen the banks by half- vegetation way, piling-up stones, building water levels with a downstream floor, where the water brakes, rotates and following the loss of kinetic energy gradually flows into the lower parts of watercourses. On these sections of watercourses water reservoirs are being built that should have also the flood protection function; they would capture and mitigate flood waves and continually leak the optimum amount of water into the downstream.
On the lower river course it is necessary to build water protection earth levies to the 100-year water level (one hundred water levels) to protect municipalities’ urban areas in the lowlands and plains (Eastern Lowlands, south of Košice hollow basin). All these measures are dependent on the river basins systemic management not just by courses’ controllers, but also by all the landowners in the area (the owners of forests, farmland and municipalities).
Given the current situation, when the urban areas are expanding, promoting community development and living standards, properties, houses and multi-purpose buildings are increasingly being flooded. Municipalities as first-stage construction authorities should be aware of the risk of construction permits in areas of river inundation areas. It is necessary to prevent and stop the construction and placement of buildings in areas that are affected by floods, avoiding unnecessary damage to property of citizens as well as businesses. The combination of environmental solutions in favour of nature and future with technical solutions to protect the population, it is possible to gradually solve the problem of flooding systemically, with the support of legislation in the field of agriculture, forestry, nature protection, water management and last but not the least in the field of market regulation in favour of environmental sustainability and quality of public life.
Legislative standards (Flood Protection Act no. 7/2010 Coll. and its relevant regulations) specify the duties of the relevant state administration (environmental authorities) of self-governing regions, cities and municipalities during floods. The flood prevention measures are decided by the Ministry of the environment, which through its managed organizations (Slovak Water Management Enterprise, Slovak Hydro meteorological Institute, and Water Management Construction) perform its work within the flood protection funded by EU sector and funds. Eligible applicants in this case are administrators, tenants of watercourses and water bodies. Given the important water management watercourses (Slaná, Bodva, Hnilec, Hornád, Ondava, Laborec, Latorica, Uh, Bodrog, Tisa and other) water reservoirs eligible applicant is a Slovak Water Management Enterprise (SWME), which has the right to interfere in the watercourses. If a small watercourse (local streams) is under the authority of municipality, through which it flows, the respective municipality may invest in flood protection in the area within its cadastre and can apply for a non-repayable financial contribution (grant) from the EU funds in accordance with a call date. However, the Act points out that every citizen is obliged to protect their property from flooding.
Regional governments are not entitled to draw NFP because of their ownership terms to the watercourses. From the above it is apparent, that the flood protection is the responsibility of the state, other components mentioned are involved in the process only during flood activities. There is the possibility of establishing the fund within the self-governing regions that would help people and communities, affected by floods, and that could be used as financial aid to municipalities and cities in taking flood prevention measures. Flood protection can be addressed only with the active state approach to this issue.