Dealing with and Preparing for Floods – Conflicts, Opportunities and Challenges

Keywords: floods, conflicts, citizenship

Flood events – inland river floods as well as storm surges – occur frequently in more or less every part of Europe and particularly in the less hazard-prone Northern and Central parts of Europe. They are often cross-border events affecting more than one administrative entity (districts, states, nations). Depending on flood protection measures they may cause situations where emergency management is needed and in some cases they have disastrous proportions that are not easy to overcome for individuals or whole regions.

Some geographical areas have experienced floods for centuries, while other areas are “newcomers” in the field, and lack experience on how to deal with the different phases in the disaster circle concerning floods. Others might have had experiences in former times, but because of socio-economic restructuring of whole regions and/or missing floods for a long period of time (so-called “disaster gaps”) this knowledge got lost. Dealing with floods in a mostly urban area might differ from a rural area; socially disadvantaged people might be affected differently than privileged people.

In all cases and despite difference in experience, a number of actors and institutions – politicians, citizens, volunteers, national and local authorities, private cooperatives like dike cooperatives, the private sector, tourist industry – are involved in decisions and implementation of flood mitigation, prevention, response and recovery. Research shows that decisions related to all phases of the disaster circle often imply extensive debate and conflicts. These conflicts could be amongst others centered around financial obligations, juridical responsibilities, the question of guilt and liability, environmental and climate change issues, the adequate form of memory and memorialization as well as the question of how to prepare for floods in the near and distant future. As these examples show broader state-society relations and different concepts of citizenship are very much present in the flood context because of the complexity of the affectedness.

The panel invites presentations that touch on how floods are dealt with, what challenges can be identified in relation to mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery and what opportunities might be involved. Paper proposals could be on more theoretical, conceptual or methodological perspectives on the challenges of flooding, just as well as analyses of practical implications are much welcome.



Bubeck P., Kreibich H., Penning-Rowsell E., Botzen W.J.W., de Moel H. & Klijn F. Explaining differences in flood management approaches in Europe and the USA – a comparative Analysis. J Flood Risk Manag 2015, doi: 10.1111/jfr3.12151, (in press).
Disco C. Remaking ‘nature’: the ecological turn in Dutch water management. Sci Technol Human Values 2002, 27, (2), 206– 235.
Krieger K. The limits and variety of risk-based governance: the case of flood management in Germany and England. Regul Governance 2013, 7, (2), 236–257.
Kuhlicke C., Callsen I. & Begg C. Reputational risks and participation in flood risk management and the public debate about the 2013 flood in Germany. Environ Sci Policy 2015, 55, (2), 318–325.
Lane, Stuart, Valerie November, Catharina Lindström, Sarah Whatmore. 2013. “Explaining Rapid Transitions in the Practice of Flood Risk Management.” Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 103(2):330-342.
Thaler, Thomas and Thomas Hartmann. 2016. “Justice and Flood Risk Management: Reflecting on Different Approaches to Distribute and Allocate Flood Risk Man- agement in Europe.” Natural Hazards, 83(1):129-147.

Panel chairs:

Cordula Dittmer (corresponding panel chair): Cordula Dittmer is a researcher at the Disaster Research Unit (DRU), Freie Universität Berlin. Her research is based in peace and conflict studies and disaster sociology. She is part of the INVOLVE-project focusing on floodings in Germany and India in 2013

Daniel F. Lorenz is a researcher at the Disaster Research Unit (DRU), Freie Universität Berlin. His research focusses on disaster sociology, vulnerability and resilience as well as the effects of the 2013 flood in Germany.

Nina Blom Andersen holds a position as reader and head of research at the Emergency and Risk Management Programme at Metropolitan University College in Copenhagen. She has carried out a number of research projects that focus on controversies in communication processes in local areas post disaster.