South East Europe – Region Wide Approach to Flood Warnings

In an attempt to increase resilience to floods and other natural disasters, a group of countries in south eastern Europe aim to develop a new cross-border multi-hazard early warning system.

The Importance of Regional Co-operation

Floods know no borders. Regional co-operation is vital in flood control, warnings and response. However it cannot be taken for granted. Language barriers, lack of technical expertise or even lack of political will can all stand in the way. See for example, Pakistan, India and Nepal. Even within the same country, lack of co-operation can be an issue. After the floods in June 2013, German states were accused of taking a disjointed approach to flood control.

Building Resilience to Disasters in Western Balkans and Turkey

The project – called “Building Resilience to Disasters in Western Balkans and Turkey” began two years ago and includes Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, Serbia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Turkey, and Kosovo.

The project was financed by the European Commission through the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance and implemented by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

It seems the project has been successful in making neighbouring countries understand the need for continued co-operation.

Earlier this month the group held its concluding meeting in Ankara, Turkey, where all participants agreed to continued cross-border co-operation.

Head of the UNISDR Regional Office for Europe, Paola Albrito said:

“South East European countries are committed and aware of the challenges ahead. The engagement voiced on local action, exchange of knowledge, common data standards and the continuation of innovative insurance and reinsurance solutions sets the agenda for future collaboration.”

May 2014 Floods and Future Threats

The Balkan floods in May 2014 sounded alarm bells in the region. For countries such as Bosnia and Serbia, these were the worst floods for over 100 years. And there could be worse to come. Dimitar Ivanov, the WMO Europe Representative in the project said.

“We expect an increase in extreme precipitation events, as well as heatwaves, as a result of climate change. It is therefore vital that we do more to build cross-border disaster resilience.”

Clearly there will be greater need to work together.

The floods that swept across the Balkan countries during May 2014 provided the first test for the project and evidence of the importance of regional co-operation in the face of natural disasters.

The information and knowledge management system set up by the group (known as KMS) provided a platform for information exchange from the local to the national and international levels, which allowed integration between different national languages.

Other areas of the project include:

  • Exchange of Experts Programme – building and strengthening a network of relevant experts
  • National meteorological and hydrological services (NMHS) in the region strengthened their capacity to improve monitoring and forecasting of extreme weather.
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina joined MeteoAlarm, the European severe weather warnings platform
  • Increased technical capacity for flood and drought risk assessment across vulnerable sectors like agriculture and water, and promote integrated flood management as well as forecasting.