Flood control measures are lagging behind and nature-based measures are difficult to enforce. Development in active zones of flood areas is also a problem

Press release on Audit No 19/04 - 2 March 2020

The Supreme Audit Office has scrutinized the appropriations made available by the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) and the Ministry of the Environment (MoE) for flood control measures between the years 2016 and 2018. The funds for these measures come from the state budget as well as from EU funds. For each year, the Ministries have allocated CZK 1.4 billion on average. However, this represents only a third of the anticipated investments. More than half of the measures proposed for the years 2015 to 2021 by the MoA and the MoE will not even be launched by the end of 2021. At the same time, the MoE fails to promote nature-based flood control measures. In addition to that, development had taken place in active zones of flood areas.

According to the MoE, floods are the most direct risk for the Czech Republic in terms of natural disasters and also pose a threat in the context of climate change. A total of 2.8 thousand kilometres of watercourses are at a significant risk of floods according to a report from 2018.

In 2010, the MoE and the MoA estimated that approximately CZK 4.2 billion per year would be necessary for flood protection, and this estimate was confirmed in 2015. In reality, the MoA and the MoE spent on average CZK 1.4 billion per year on flood protection. Out of the 135 measures, which the Ministries have planned for the years 2015 to 2021, more than half of them will not even be launched by 2021.

“A lack of funds is not the reason why flood control measures are being postponed. The slow drawing of subsidies, above all, delays flood control measures. The fact that a long period of time has passed since the last major flood may be the cause why public interest and the pressure to implement the measures has subsided,” said Petr Neuvirt, SAO Member, who led the audit.

Funds for the construction of flood protection structures come mainly from the MoA. Nature-based construction measures supported by the MoE with EU funds are limited. However, according to the European Environment Agency nature-based measures are effective also in terms of costs. Unfortunately, the MoE fails to enforce them. State enterprises in charge of individual river basins prefer to draw funds from MoA’s budget to fund technical measures, such as the construction of dikes, the stabilisation of watercourses etc.

Measures that return watercourses to their natural state, so-called revitalisation and renaturation, also help protect against floods. Unfortunately, these measures are taking place at a slow pace. The National Action Plan on Adaptation to Climate Change identifies these measures as the only type of action designed to increase the natural water retention ability of watercourses and floodplains. For example, only 61.3 kilometres of watercourses under the management of the audited river basin administrators were revitalised between the years 2010 to 2018. By 2017, a pilot project for the renaturation of watercourses was to be carried out in each river basin. Povodí Labe (“Elbe River Basin Company”) has completed 14 renaturations and another 13 are ongoing, one project is being carried out by Povodí Moravy (“Morava River Basin Company”). Povodí Odry and Povodí Vltavy (“Vltava River Basin Company”) have no projects of renaturation.

Also, land consolidation, which is necessary for the construction of flood protection structures, takes a long time. An amendment to the Water Act, which has been in force since 2008, enables river basin enterprises to expropriate land for consolidation. In the explanatory memorandum to this amendment, the MoA had anticipated that by the year 2015 ten thousand hectares of flood areas would be created. By the beginning of 2019, only three thousand hectares of flood areas were built.

One of the problems the Czech Republic faces in terms of flood protection is development in flood areas. The SAO selected 40 development projects completed between 2015 and 2018 in sites with a flood threat and found that they were directly located in active zones of flood areas. In the case of a quarter of these cases, no one had submitted an application to the river basin administrator for an opinion on the building in question, other buildings were built in spite of a negative response from the river basin administrators.

Development in areas with a high risk of floods was also a result of the fact that competent authorities had not defined flood areas and active zones of flood areas for certain stretches of watercourses with a significant flood risk.

Communication Department
Supreme Audit Office

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