Climate change or poor management: What are the major reasons behind devastating floods?

May 9, 2019

TEHRAN – Although climate change could be a cause for recent torrential rainfalls and flooding, poor management and ignoring watershed management are also to blame for enhanced flood destruction, Seyed Mohammad Mojabi, head of environment committee of the Expediency Council has said.

In order to recognize a precise reason for the recent floods, we have to wait for the studies’ result carried out by special working group on flooding, however, responsible bodies have not been working properly issuing construction permits in the river beds and banks, ISNA news agency quoted Mojabi as saying on Saturday.

“Following recurrent droughts and low precipitation, related organizations believed that severe rainfalls seem far-fetched in a country with arid and semi-arid climate and decided to allow construction projects through river banks, which increased flood devastation,” he lamented.

The other reason behind expanded damages caused by flooding was not taking watershed management into serious consideration, he stated, adding, if watershed projects have been operational since past recent years, it could have reduced flood severity to a great extent.

“In particular, a large number of cities being located on steep slopes are prone to flood risk and will suffer irreparable damages,” Mojabi added.

Emphasizing on the need for preparing plans on presentation and overcoming the natural incidents, he noted that natural hazards in different areas must be identified and the effects of them must be minimized by proper planning.

He went on to say that currently flood in the country has become a major issue for the people and the related organizations because of the damage it has inflicted, so the opportunity must be seized in order to decrease the risks.

Reducing flood risk: planning ahead 

Referring to the ways to reduce flood risks, he suggested that all the cities across the country must be assessed in terms of vulnerability to natural incidents.

“After identifying the natural hazards of each city and categorizing each of them, then construction standards and guidelines must be defined, and further the cities’ infrastructure must be improved in accordance with the standards toward sustainability,” he further explained.

He also added that it is essential to ensure the sustainability of the cities, although the sustainability in the cities have been taken for granted and their principles have been forgotten due to intrusion on environment and natural resources.

All government and non-governmental organizations should play a role in urban monitoring projects; in addition to municipalities who are responsible for urban development and management, he stated, adding that the Ministry of Roads and Urban Development, and even the Department of Environment, should join hand in this regard.

Insisting on the necessity for the cities to be improved in accordance with the standards, he lamented that that the management system in the country is in a way that attention is paid only to day-to-day problems and such issues are usually overlooked.

So, watershed plans, playing a significant role in reducing flood intensity, could have been carried out over the past years and at a low cost, he stated, adding that while floods in a few hours brought heavy financial losses for the country.

Unfortunately, studies will remain in the libraries and omitted in implementing development projects, he noted, suggesting, first of all, the studies must be conducted precisely to become the center of focus when preparing projects.

“Integration is not practiced in the country, most of the related organizations take steps individually and are not willing to cooperate with each other to reach a favorable result,” he regretted.

To solve the problem, there needs to be strict policy-making, which obliges each organization to fully take responsibility toward the assigned tasks, and not to shift the blame to the other agencies when a catastrophe happens, he explained.

Environment benefitted from the floods 

Elsewhere in his remarks, Mojabi said that although heavy rainfall resulted in flooding and imposed damages on the residents, it filled the long-dried wetlands across the country, each of which needed great conservation plans and fund to revive.

Currently, 80 percent of the wetlands across the country are filled completely, some of which are overflowing, therefore, we must take measures such as strong management policies and providing their water right to help them remain in the current condition and prevent them from depletion once again, he also added.

“Despite heavy rainfall and recent floods, it should not be forgotten that Iran is an arid and semi-arid country and is still deeply involved with the drought and water shortage,” he also noted.

He went on to conclude that almost half of the country's plains are in critical situation as being prone to severe subsidence, therefore, the drought remains a major problem in the country.

Increased precipitations nationwide 

Based on the latest data published on Monday by National Drought Warning and Monitoring Center affiliated to Iran’s Meteorological Organization since the start of the current water year the whole country received 294.9 millimeters of rain.

The number amounted to 133 millimeters in the previous water year and 209.9 millimeters in the long-term, the data indicated. The numbers show a drastic increase of 121.8 percent compared to last water year. It also reveals a 40.5 percent increase compared to long-term means.

Why floods were catastrophic?

Ali Salajeqeh, University of Tehran faculty in river engineering and watershed management said earlier this month that the only way for the country to overcome long-term droughts along with preventing floods is through comprehensive watershed management plans.

Moreover, distinguished environmentalist Mohammad Darvish has said that loss of vegetation covers and conversion of forests to rain fed farmlands has caused the country to be more vulnerable to flooding as proper vegetation cover could reduce flood damages.

He regretted that construction measure, tearing down the trees, excessive underground water withdrawal and soil erosion caused by the human have adversely affected forests and its vegetation cover.

Also, Masoud Baqerzadeh Karimi, director for wetland ecosystem office at the Department of Environment said in late April that ignoring technical issues in developing infrastructure of the water basin along with excessive soil erosion are what made the recent floods extremely devastating.

The reason which exacerbated flood wreckage is mostly environmental degradation, namely, soil erosion which is the result of illegal construction, land use changes, river basin destruction, and deforestation.

FB/MQ/MG

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