Margot Soler

Abstracts

2 Flood Risk Management in Low Income Countries: Balancing Risk and Development

Authors: Gavin Quibell, Martin Kleynhans, Margot Soler

Abstract:

The Sendai Framework notes that disaster risk reduction is essential for sustainable development, and Disaster Risk Reduction is included in 3 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and 4 of the SDG targets. However, apart from promoting better governance and resourcing of disaster management agencies, little guidance is given how low-income nations can balance investments across the SDGs to achieve sustainable development in an increasingly climate vulnerable world with increasing prevalence of flood and drought disasters. As one of the world’s poorest nations, Malawi must balance investments across all the SDGs. This paper explores how Malawi’s National Guidelines for Community-based Flood Risk Management integrate sustainable development and flood management objectives at different administrative levels. While Malawi periodically suffers from large, widespread flooding, the greatest impacts are felt through the smaller annual floods and flash floods. The Guidelines address this through principles that recognize that while the protection of human life is the most important priority for flood risk management, addressing the impacts of floods on the rural poor and the economy requires different approaches. The National Guidelines are therefore underpinned by the following; 1. In the short-term investments in flood risk management must focus on breaking the poverty – vulnerability cycle; 2. In the long-term investments in the other SDGs will have the greatest flood risk management benefits; 3. If measures are in place to prevent loss of life and protect strategic infrastructure, it is better to protect more people against small and medium size floods than fewer people against larger floods; 4. Flood prevention measures should focus on small (1:5 return period) floods; 5. Flood protection measures should focus on small and medium floods (1:20 return period) while minimizing the risk of failure in larger floods; 6. The impacts of larger floods ( > 1:50) must be addressed through improved preparedness; 7. The impacts of climate change on flood frequencies are best addressed by focusing on growth not overdesign; and 8. Manage floods and droughts conjunctively. The National Guidelines weave these principles into Malawi’s approach to flood risk management through recommendations for planning and implementing flood prevention, protection and preparedness measures at district, traditional authority and village levels.

Keywords: Sustainable Development, Malawi, flood risk management in low-income countries, investments in prevention, protection and preparedness, community-based flood risk management

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1 Utilising Indigenous Knowledge to Design Dykes in Malawi

Authors: Gavin Quibell, Martin Kleynhans, Margot Soler

Abstract:

Malawi is one of the world’s poorest nations and consequently, the design of flood risk management infrastructure comes with a different set of challenges. There is a lack of good quality hydromet data, both in spatial terms and in the quality thereof and the challenge in the design of flood risk management infrastructure is compounded by the fact that maintenance is almost completely non-existent and that solutions have to be simple to be effective. Solutions should not require any further resources to remain functional after completion, and they should be resilient. They also have to be cost effective. The Lower Shire Valley of Malawi suffers from frequent flood events. Various flood risk management interventions have been designed across the valley during the course of the Shire River Basin Management Project – Phase I, and due to the data poor environment, indigenous knowledge was relied upon to a great extent for hydrological and hydraulic model calibration and verification. However, indigenous knowledge comes with the caveat that it is ‘fuzzy’ and that it can be manipulated for political reasons. The experience in the Lower Shire valley suggests that indigenous knowledge is unlikely to invent a problem where none exists, but that flood depths and extents may be exaggerated to secure prioritization of the intervention. Indigenous knowledge relies on the memory of a community and cannot foresee events that exceed past experience, that could occur differently to those that have occurred in the past, or where flood management interventions change the flow regime. This complicates communication of planned interventions to local inhabitants. Indigenous knowledge is, for the most part, intuitive, but flooding can sometimes be counter intuitive, and the rural poor may have a lower trust of technology. Due to a near complete lack of maintenance of infrastructure, infrastructure has to be designed with no moving parts and no requirement for energy inputs. This precludes pumps, valves, flap gates and sophisticated warning systems. Designs of dykes during this project included ‘flood warning spillways’, that double up as pedestrian and animal crossing points, which provide warning of impending dangerous water levels behind dykes to residents before water levels that could cause a possible dyke failure are reached. Locally available materials and erosion protection using vegetation were used wherever possible to keep costs down.

Keywords: indigenous knowledge, Malawi, design of dykes in low-income countries, flood warning spillways

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