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The Residual Risks of Extreme Floods: A Challenge for Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals

    This project will create an international network of experts and a community of practice that address the residual risk dilemma in relation to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In this initial pilot stage, we will make emphasis on: SDG 11 Sustainable cities and communities, SDG 13 Climate action, SDG 17 Partnership for the goals. 

    During the second half of the 20th century, physical exposure to the risk of flooding has dramatically increased, primarily because of the occupation of flood-prone land, increasing the exposure of human populations to devastating floods. This trend has occurred despite national policies to prevent settlement in floodplains, facilitated in large measure by the false sense of security engendered by flood-control structures, such as dikes. People who live behind protective dikes are considered to be ‘out of the official floodplain’ and may assume they are safe from flooding. In fact, they are still exposed to floods larger than the design flood, and to flooding from infrastructure failure. Ignoring residual risk of floods beyond the design event or resulting from poor condition of flood control infrastructure can have catastrophic consequences, as Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in 2005 and the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan showed. Such severe flooding can wipe out many years of progress towards SDGs. How do our societies manage these low-probability, high-consequence events? How do we communicate the residual flood risk to the public? And, most importantly, by addressing these issues, how may we foster the achievement of the SDGs by 2030?

    Our project innovates by creating a network focusing on the interplay between SDGs and residual risk and its management, a topic largely ignored in practice globally. We will collaboratively design a framework to integrate residual risk in local planning efforts, create a platform to facilitate advances in basic knowledge and tools in support of SDGs centered residual flood risk issues, and identify research needs on multiple SDGs that can benefit other countries worldwide.

    Jones Tract levee failure in June 2004, California (Courtesy of California Department of Water Resources)

    Key words: Extreme Floods, Risk, Residual Risk, Sustainable Development Goals, US, Taiwan, Germany, France, Vietnam.

    Researchers: Dr. G. Mathias KONDOLF, PIs: Dr. Anna SERRA-LLOBET, Dr. Kenichi SOGA, Dr. Hsiao-Wen WANG, Dr. Chjenglun-Lun SHIEH, Dr. Jean-Paul VANDERLINDEN, Dr. Peter FRÖHLE, Dr. Natasa MANOJLOVIC, Dr. Holger SCHÜTTRUMPF

    Domains: Natural Hazards

    Publications: TBA!