Post-flood reconstruction of devastated German villages ignores adaptation measures – media
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
The reconstruction of villages destroyed in the extreme floods in western Germany in July does not adequately provide protection from similar events that might occur in the future, Julian Staib writes for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. “A repeat of the catastrophe will not be avoided with the measures taken now,” Staib writes about the decision of the state government of Rhineland-Palatinate to allow the reconstruction of most houses destroyed in the particularly hard-hit Ahr Valley. State premier Malu Dreyer of the Social Democrats (SPD) had promised residents that the reconstruction of their homes will be supported with public money and not held up by bureaucratic hurdles. “This is what scientists have warned against,” Staib writes, arguing that regulatory requirements that protect against new flooding events would actually be in the interest of both residents and taxpayers in general. Flood researchers had called for far-ranging adaptation measures to better contain water after heavy rainfalls in the future, such as the construction of larger holding reservoirs, better planning of road construction and agricultural spaces and the expansion of designated flood plains. Instead, Dreyer stressed that houseowners “can be sure to rebuild and repair at the exact same spot.” Policymakers are shunning drastic measures to avoid that residents leave the region in droves and turn villages in the Ahr Valley into ghost towns. Funding of reconstruction measures should have been tied to flood protection requirements, he concludes, but policymakers opted for a different message to citizens: “You live in a flooding area and need to be advised about that – but we happily pay for rebuilding everything exactly the way it was.” Houseowners will be helped with 80 to 100 percent of the costs of reconstruction, for which the state and the national government provide about 15 billion euros – the equivalent of Rhineland-Palatinate’s annual budget, Staib writes.
The floods that killed hundreds of people in western Germany and in neighbouring European countries have widely been linked to global warming and illustrated the destructive effects higher global temperatures can have even on regions with a usually moderate climate like western Europe. Researchers and climate activists have pointed out that the costs for reconstruction after climate-related natural disasters dwarf those accruing in order to prevent or mitigate them.