|Simonovic Seeks Flooding Solutions
||Jul 20th, 2004
by Paul Mayne
Simonovic, Research Chair in Civil and Environmental
Engineering, is helping to design a new international
mechanism for coping with the ever-increasing damage and loss
of life caused by flooding.
And the life-and-death
component of his work couldn’t have been more apparent last
week during his visit to Japan where he was developing the
initiative. Sixteen people in the northwest part of the
country were killed after tremendous rains caused substantial
“You wouldn’t think something like that
would happen in a developed country such as Japan,” says
Simonovic. Still, large portions of Japan are on flood plain.
“The easy solution would be to just move everyone out
of the flood plains. But Japan has 200 million people and
that’s not going to happen. It just shows you that we need
this international science to assist all governments
everywhere in dealing with floods.”
One of six members
working on the design, Simonovic, who also works through
Western’s Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction, says
their work still needs approval from the United Nations
Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and
World Meteorological Organization. Both are expected to give
approval this fall.
Formal launch of the new flood
agency will likely take place at a December workshop on Water
and Disasters organized by Western’s Institute for
Catastrophic Loss Reduction under the leadership of Simonovic.
The International Flood Initiative is expected to
contribute to flood damage mitigation by integrating
scientific, operational, formal and public educational aspects
of flood management.
“With developing countries, the
occurrence of a flood could literally wipe out a country,”
says Simonovic, mentioning locations such as Bangladesh and
“We need to create methods and find ways to
cope with such occurrences. Flooding is going to happen and we
need to have the mechanisms and do what we can in order to
live with them.”
In Canada, Peterborough, Ont. is
entering a state of emergency for the fifth straight day after
torrential downpours left a large portion of the city under
Whereas the devastation there is more
materialistic, Simonovic adds this sort of occurrence still
falls under the mechanism his group is working on.
“The flooding in this case is more of a municipal
problem, but that’s still an aspect of our work,” he says.
“Do we need to develop new design codes for municipal
drainage pipes? This would require substantial investment, but
we’re continually receiving more intense rains. We need to
deal with reality.”
Floods, which have been a growing
factor in human lives since the first permanent human
settlements, are responsible for thousands of deaths and
billions of dollars in damage every year.
in number of floods over the decades can be linked to global
climactic change, says Simonovic.
“We feel climactic
change is definitely playing a role in the increase we are
seeing in flooding around the world. The rain and temperatures
we’re experiencing are heavier and more intense,” he says.
“The idea is that we need to be proactive when it
comes to dealing with flooding. Being reactive is simply
paying the bills and we can’t continue in that manner.”