Project description

Over the past decades, the European Union witnessed a striking increase in the losses caused by natural, particularly hydro-meteorological disasters. Every year large areas of Europe are hit by droughts and/or floods, directly or indirectly affecting many communities and economic sectors. The climate change induced alteration of rainfall patter (form, intensity and timing of rainfall) will have significant effects on water availability and frequency of extreme events, thus causing additional social and economic hardship.

Floods and droughts are natural phenomena which cannot be prevented but whose adverse impacts can be prevented. Proper natural hazard management and disaster risk reduction policies help to address several global changes at the same time: First, they can reduce the harm caused by natural disasters, and increase the ability of societies to respond and recover. Second, they are vital for designing preventive measures to adapt to the changing climate.

However, an effective prevention necessitates accurate knowledge of what is at stake. Yet the knowledge about the past disasters is all but erratic and incomplete. At best, only direct losses are known and this only for some of the key sectors. Little attention is paid to indirect, induced and intangible effects, albeit these together may exceed the direct losses in the case of droughts, and account of a bulk of damage in the case of flood.

As a consequence, the actual losses are underestimated and policy responses which are based on such a data are insufficient or inadequate to mitigate the future disaster risks. Often the poor assessment of inflicted losses favours primarily structural policy responses which, in long run, may increase the sensitivity to disasters and further exacerbate the problem.

he knowledge collected and/or improved by this project will be instrumental to several EU policies and national efforts to mitigate the natural hazard risk. First, the designated river basin authorities are now in process of implementing the provision of the Water Framework Directive and Flood Risk Management Directive, thus assessing hazard and risk posed by the extreme hydro-meteorological events. This is not an easy task and in many cases the new policies' provisions mark a shift away from the habitual practices. Second, the Member States are putting significant efforts to implement the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR) and the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA), thus improving knowledge about disaster reduction; identifying, assessing and monitoring disaster risks; and reducing the underlying risk factors. Drawing on a bulk of recent EC research results, the PREEMPT project will contribute to these efforts and help to build a culture of evidence-based risk prevention practice.