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Dr Jonathan Clarke from Global Sustainable Development comments on efforts to prevent and respond to flooding

Substantial flooding in parts of the UK has led to people being evacuated from homes and disruption to travel. Dr Jonathan Clarke from the Global Sustainable Development programme argues that the benefits of preparing for floods have been evident for a while, but uncertainty as to where responsibility lies hinders progress.

Dr Clarke said: "A comprehensive review of flooding was published by Sir Michael Pitt in 1992, which made 92 recommendations. However, few of these have been implemented and there is a sense that successive Governments have preferred to cross their fingers and hope that the rains don’t come. We need to look at whole catchment management, holding water upstream and potentially building more capacity for water storage, but there is no magic bullet solution. The routine practice of building in flood plains needs to be stopped and we need to promote more green infrastructure, for example new developments should incorporate sustainable drainage measures.

"In terms of providing flood defences, a wealth of research has demonstrated the good value of public investment in them; certainly in comparison to the regular cost of restoring damaged communities following flood events. In my estimate, the single most important reform is a governance one; at present responsibility for preventing and responding to flooding is held between many actors, including local authorities, the environment agency, communities, water companies, emergency services, local drainage boards and private land owners."

14 November 2019

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