IVM researchers help people in Limburg to be better prepared for flooding

In May 2017 IVM researchers Stefania Munaretto and Douwe de Voogt organized two participatory events, a guided walk event and a storytelling event, to raise awareness on riverine flood risk and prevention measures in Itteren and Borgharen, Maastricht.

07/20/2017 | 4:06 PM

During the guided walk, local citizens shared their experiences with the 1990s floods and the authorities illustrated the flood protection measures implemented along the Meuse river. During the storytelling event, senior citizens shared their flood stories with elementary school children.

Lessons learned
Evaluating this pilot study, environmental policy expert Stefania Munaretto and environmental scientist Douwe de Voogt learned that an informal setting such as a walk along the river, creates a friendly atmosphere that stimulates attentive listening and thus learning.The authority representatives said that they had gained new knowledge about the impact of floods on citizens. The experience inspired some of them in such a way that they considered using this new information in future planning activities of their organization. As for the activities with the school, the pupils reported to have learned something new, and the teachers expressed the interest to repeat the activity in the future. In general, these activities are more likely to be successful if the participants sharing their flood experience are good storytellers, stimulating interesting and thought-provoking conversation.

Why Itteren and Borgharen?
Itteren and Borgharen are two villages that were heavily flooded by the Meuse River in the 1990s and that are now protected by flood infrastructure. The flood infrastructure has decreased but not completely erased flood risk and has changed flood dynamics from a slow-rise-quick-withdrawal to a fast-rise-slow-withdrawal of water from the river. Consequently, increasing awareness, stimulating motivation to be prepared for floods, and “updating” flood knowledge were deemed important actions to strengthen social capacity for flood risk mitigation in the area.

What next?
Based on this study and four other similar studies in Europe, a comparative study will extract lessons about how participatory actions can contribute to capacity building for flood risk mitigation in communities. The final CAPFLO deliverable will comprise guidelines for planning, implementing and evaluating these participatory actions. The guidelines are meant to be used by practitioners at all levels of governance (community, municipality, national, etc.) to strengthen flood risk mitigation.

For more information and the full report visit: www.capflo.net or contact dr. Stefania Munaretto (stefania.munaretto@vu.nl).

Photo credits: S. Munaretto and D. de Voogt