Sunday, 22 November 2009

One of those things

Yet again thousands of people are having their lives wrecked by flooding, and yet again nothing much is being done to stop more flooding misery in the future.

The Lake District and Cumbria have had the heaviest rainfall in living memory, with several towns and huge swathes of farmland under water. Houses and businesses have been swamped, families evacuated, and services like gas, electricity and water cut off.

It's a similar story across County Fermanagh in Northern Ireland, where the level of Lough Erne is the highest on record, and across the Republic. Cork was under water for the first time in over 50 years.

Each time an area is flooded, everyone wrings their hands in despair, expensive repairs are needed, and insurance companies pay out millions of pounds (or euro). Sooner or later there'll be serious flooding again, but little thought is given to how it can be prevented or how householders can be protected.

There are plenty of possible solutions. People in houses could move to the upper floors. Houses could be built on stilts. River beds could be deepened. Vulnerable areas near rivers could be permanently evacuated.

But few people seem to be addressing the problem with any urgency. There's a sort of deep-rooted fatalism and stoicism, as if flooding is just one of those things, just a bit of bad luck, and all we can do is pick up the pieces and hope it doesn't happen again.

The authorities invariably say that the rainfall was exceptionally heavy, it couldn't have been predicted, the infrastructure simply couldn't cope etc. Which is all true, but it does nothing to prevent lives being regularly shattered by these calamities.

People don't pay heavy taxes just to be told that the rainfall was extraordinary, they can see that for themselves. They want some concrete help and a sense of security about the future. In short, less stiff upper lip, more elbow grease.

PS: There's an account of the aftermath in Cockermouth here. Some families have been flooded 3 times in 4 years and can no longer get insurance.


  1. Less incidence of dodgey planning given for estates to be built on land prone to flooding just because the farmer or developer is a mate of someone with a bit of sway perhaps? In fact I think the people in these estates should be able to sue the individual who gave planning permission in the first place, unless they can prove the developer was remiss in some way leading to increased chance of flooding. That'd stop the fuckers lining their own pockets.

  2. Thrifty - That's certainly one of the problems, reckless building on known flood plains where the chances of flooding are obviously huge. Indeed, there should be more legal action against these irresponsible developers and the politicians who back them. Why aren't there, I wonder?

  3. I'm catching up on all this after been offline for the w/e. Fat chance of retribution i reckon - there's just too much backhanders in the works - start building your ARK!

  4. Should not someone or all affected people be asking why there is excess rain? Could it possibly have some thing to do with global warming? Or perhaps the damage humans are causing to the environment in many ways? I think that we are running out of time. You must read Hot Flat and Crowded by Thomas Friedman.

  5. Or, try this for size.

  6. I heard a climatologist speaking about this last week - he claimed that while Ireland's climate is getting warmer by about half a degree during winter nights every year, we're to expect a hell of a lot more summer/autumn rainfall. This is just climate flux, as we float between ice-ages, nothing to do with human interference.

    Yippee, more rain for ever more! I think Dublin would be beautiful from the point of view of a gondola, personally.

    You're bang on though, seems the powers that be are just closing their eyes in the hope it will all just go away. Mucking with the river bed depth just makes way too much sense.

  7. Quicky - Yes, plenty of backhanders being slipped into people's pockets, I'm sure. But mainly it's just good old political indifference to the misfortunes of ordinary folk.

    Ramana - Climate change may very well have something to do with it. But the question is, how are householders going to be protected from constant flooding?

    Kate - MORE rainfall? Jeez, as if what we're seeing already isn't enough. Getting a few gondolas sounds like a good bet. And that's exactly it, they're closing their eyes and pretending nothing untoward is happening.

  8. Why do something permanent when year after year government agencies will come to the aid of the afflicted? i know, it's like Australia and bushfires.

  9. Ellie - They don't usually give any serious aid to the victims, only meagre amounts that never cover the full extent of the damage. Householders are expected to have home insurance - which in flood-prone areas now involves massive premiums and massive excesses (i.e. the amount you have to fork out yourself before the insurance company will pay anything).

    But judging by your blog, the horrors of flooding are the last thing on your mind. I'd better not read too much of it, I'm feeling a tad over-excited....

  10. Immediate action on reduction of global warming. It will take time which we may well not have but all the steps everyone knows need to be taken without delay.

    Short term, having the experience of this year anticipate and see that the same thing does not happen by proper flood water controls like we did in Pune this year and in Mumbai too.

  11. Nick:
    Katrina and N.O. were just the canary in the coal mine for all future 'natural' disasters. Complete and callous disregard by Dems Wot Rules.
    I did hear (but found nothing on line then) about the plans of Greater London for new barriers on the Thames for future flood predictions as the human toll would be in the millions.

  12. Ramana - Indeed, governments (and us) have to take some serious action on climate change as well as short-term flood defences.

    www - There were plans for a second Thames Flood Barrier a couple of years ago but it seems to have been kicked into the long grass since then. Surprise surprise.

  13. It really depends on why the area is flooding. Broken river banks and stormwater seepage is difficult to control without the use of levies and particularly in built up areas. Coastal flooding can often be contained with the building of levees and seawalls. The problem is people like living near rivers and the coast (much like so many Aussies who build in fire prone bushland) so it's always a risk. I agree with Thrifty though, the planning for these towns is often poor and people are allowed to build unsuitable dwellings near water courses. I'm not a great fan of altering natural rivers, it has ecological consequences. If you're below the floodline here (indeed the houses across the way from me are), there are special caveats to building and odds are you won't get insurance against flood. There are huge problems though where older buildings exist on flood plains and coastlines. We can hardly knock 'em down and build flood proof dwellings.

  14. Baino - The planning authorities have a lot to answer for. House building has been allowed in all sorts of unsuitable places. The government itself wants to build thousands of new homes along the Thames Estuary! Sheer madness.