Innovative flood protection systems or how countries deal with flooding

floods
Photo credit: primeminister.kz

More than 30 settlements remain cut off from the outside world as a result of large-scale floods in Kazakhstan. More than 118,000 residents were evacuated from flood-affected zones. As global climate patterns change and sea levels rise, many countries are facing the dangerous consequences of flooding. However, developing countries are enhancing their flood protection measures with cutting-edge technologies in battling nature’s disasters, Kazinform News Agency correspondent reports.

Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev called the floods in the country the biggest disaster in the last 80 years.

Urban cities with millions of residents, like Tokyo and Venice, have created complex defenses against flood threats in the last two decades.

City of Venice: the "Moses" barrier system

Often romanticized as the Italian "city on the water,” flooding is a common matter in Venice. In 2019, the city experienced its worst floods in over half a century, with much of its historic district submerged under water. However, the following year, a dramatic change was brought about when the Moses system was implemented. A remarkable engineering feat, consisting of 78 metal barriers, is comparable to a five-story building in its height.

This system operates by raising the floodgates during high tides, effectively blocking the influx of water from the Adriatic Sea. Conceived over decades of planning and construction, the Moses system now stands as a critical bulwark against flooding, preserving Venice from the fate of becoming a modern-day Atlantis. The yearly high tides, once a dangerous threat, now pass along almost unnoticed by the residents of the city.

Tokyo: the underground flood control collector

Tokyo, a city well-acquainted with the perils of frequent flooding, has taken an interesting subterranean approach to managing this risk. A massive underground flood control system is widely praised as a contemporary Japanese engineering wonder. The system consists of five enormous wells, each the size of the Statue of Liberty, linked by long tunnels. These wells gather and direct enormous amounts of water during periods of intense rainfall into a reservoir from which it is securely released into Tokyo Bay.

At a $3 billion dollar construction cost, this massive project not only represents the world’s largest structure of its kind but has also effectively reduced flood-related damages in the area. When dry, the tunnels are open for occasional public tours, providing a unique and adventurous experience in this engineering wonder.

The Netherlands: a comprehensive approach to water management

The Netherlands, a country long threatened by the sea, is well known for its extensive flood resistance strategies. The Room for the River project exemplifies the Dutch approach, incorporating a series of measures like shifting dikes, lowering floodplains, and transferring residents to safer areas.

This technique enhances the capacity of rivers to control water flow naturally, reducing the risks of flooding. Protective dams and creative floating structures that rise with increasing water levels are examples of Rotterdam's dedication to flood protection.

Canada: explosive approach to flood management

The usage of explosives became one of the effective methods of flood protection in the area of Rideau Falls in Ottawa. According to this method, more than 200 kilograms of trinitrotoluene is placed in deep holes under ice. Seven explosives explode in various locations at the same time. Targeting the thickest ice, particularly in areas where rivers narrow or bend sharply, this technique successfully avoids ice jams that might result in water overflowing riverbanks.

Following these controlled explosions, a special type of equipment comes into play—amphibious icebreaker excavators, which are referred to as “frogs.” This unique machinery can clear about 50 kilometers of ice jams during a shift. The United States, on the other hand, relies on fire boats that break ice on rivers, ensuring that ice fragments move along the current and melt faster.

One common approach that’s universal to all regions is the construction of dams and reservoirs in the areas identified as particularly vulnerable. These structures reduce the chances of unexpected flooding, regulate water flow, and contain extra water during peak flood seasons.

Eastern European countries have also adopted a more temporary yet effective approach during the flood season. The Czech Republic, for instance, has utilized protective barriers made of sandbags along embankments. This method was prominently seen in Prague in 2002, where local residents made barriers to protect the ancient sites of the city.

Global warming threats

Environmental organizations blame corporate and industrial activity for harming the global environment. Industrial pollution, deforestation, and the burning of fossil fuels contribute to the destruction of the ozone layer and global warming.

The rise in Earth's temperature has led to more intense and frequent weather phenomena, such as unprecedented-strong typhoons. Widespread deforestation intensifies this issue even further. Forests are essential for absorbing rainfall and stabilizing the soil, which prevents catastrophic floods and soil degradation. Without forests, precipitation runs unchecked.

This problem has become a serious matter in the Philippines. The "kaingin system"—a practice of clearing trees for agriculture using slash-and-burn methods—and the extensive logging activities have significantly decreased the country's forest cover.

The intensity of storms is also considered an effect of global warming. For example, scientific studies indicate that ocean warming may be a factor in stronger and longer-lasting hurricanes, such as Hurricane Harvey in 2017, which caused unprecedented rainfall and catastrophic flooding in Houston and Texas.

There is also evidence linking the extension of wildfire seasons to global warming. The devastating Black Summer bushfires that struck Australia in 2019–2020 were partially caused by climate change with extremely high temperatures and prolonged drought conditions.

Due to increasing sea levels caused by the melting of the polar ice caps due to global warming, coastal populations are at risk from increased erosion and more frequent floods. Small island states such as the Maldives, for instance, are facing existential dangers. Some of the islands have already lost a significant amount of territory.

Millions of people were impacted by the severe rainy seasons that struck South Asia in 2020, especially the floods that hit Bangladesh and India, submerging over a third of the country. These instances demonstrate the close connection between rising flood risks and global warming, emphasizing the urgent necessity for international climate actions and comprehensive regulations to lessen the effects of climate change in the future.

Currently reading
x