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Floods are natural phenomena. They can, however, turn into disasters causing widespread damage, health problems and even deaths.

This is especially the case where rivers have been cut off from their natural floodplains, are confined to man-made channels, and where houses and industrial sites have been constructed in areas that are naturally liable to flooding.

Floods are natural phenomena, which have helped to shape natural landscapes, habitats and ecosystems in floodplains, wetlands and other lowlands. They are impossible to prevent altogether, although measures may be taken to reduce their frequency and the damage they cause.
Floods can, however, turn into disasters causing widespread damage, health problems and casualties.

Increased peak flood flow occurs where rivers have been cut off from their natural floodplains, are confined to a man-made channel, and where houses and industrial sites have been constructed in areas that are naturally liable to flooding. Changes in land use in rural and urban areas can also worsen floods or their effects.

Did you know?

Today only about a fifth of the Danube Basin’s ecologically rich natural floodplains are still preserved, compared with the situation around 150 years ago.

The impacts of major floods in Europe may increase considerably in the future, since society is becoming more vulnerable to the damage and disruption caused by floods, and because floods may become more serious and more frequent due to climatic changes.

Facts and figures

Over the period 1998–200, different parts of Europe suffered about 100 serious floods, causing some 700 fatalities, the displacement of about half a million people and at least €25 billion in insured economic losses. These floods inundated an estimated total area of one million square kilometres, including areas that were flooded more than once. Around 1.5% of the European population were directly affected by flooding.

Flood defence measures

Most large rivers in densely populated areas have been modified to help prevent floods, and to obtain new land for urban development as well as assuring agricultural production. In many cases, hydrological engineering structures have changed river courses and channels considerably, with meanders and branches straightened and redirected.

What the ICPDR is doing

The ICPDR has included the issue of minimising the impacts of floods into its five-year Joint Action Programme, and has just finalised an Action Programme for Sustainable Flood Protection. The disastrous floods that occurred in August 2002 in the Danube and Elbe river basins accelerated the efforts of the ICPDR in co-ordinating and harmonising basin-wide actions to cope with flood hazards.

The ICPDR's new Expert Group on Flood Protection is currently outlining actions designed to safeguard sustainable flood protection in the Danube River Basin.

The ICPDR also supports the Budapest Initiative on Sustainable Flood Management, which recognises the role of river basin commissions in the preparation of action plans, and creates a sound basis for concerted flood management in future.


Cross border flood management in the River Basin Tisza.

Overview of impacts caused by the 2002 floods in the Danube River Basin


Floods in Bavaria affected the Danube from Regensburg to Passau, and many tributaries including the Inn, Traun, Salzach and Regen. Thanks to flow regulation structures, the negative impacts of the flooding were substantially reduced. The utilisation of reservoirs at Dillingen and at Ingolstadt helped to reduce flood peaks considerably. The extent of damage to infrastructure and private properties amounted to 230 million Euro.


Lower and Upper Austria and Salzburg suffered worst from the floods. More than 10,000 homes were damaged, infrastructure was destroyed, and the total cost of infrastructural rehabilitation is expected to amount to €232 million. Preliminary estimates of the total damage amount 3.1 billion Euro.

Czech Republic

In the Morava River Basin about 20 communities were affected by floods. Major damage was caused to urban settlements, infrastructure and agriculture. Damages amounted to some €11.7 million (7 million for state and municipal property and 4.7 million for private property).


Major areas affected by flooding included parts of central Slovakia inundated by flash floods and an area around Bratislava impacted by the Danube flood. 144 settlements and 8,678 hectares of land were flooded. Damages amounted to €36.2 million and emergency measures cost some €2.2 million.


Several municipalities were affected by the flooding of the Danube near Visegrad. About 2,000 people had to be evacuated, and 4,370 homes were damaged. More serious damage was successfully avoided by flood prevention structures and emergency interventions, however. The overall cost of the emergency operation was €33 million, and the rehabilitation of flood defence structures is expected to cost some €10.2 million.


Flash floods in the Suceava region of northern Romania caused 11 casualties, while 1,624 houses were flooded, and more than 1,000 km of roads and 567 bridges were destroyed. Gas, electricity and communication networks were also badly damaged.

Flood Action Programme (PDF, 1.9MB)

Action Programme for Sustainable Flood Protection in the Danube River Basin

Deutsche Übersetzung (PDF, 502.3KB)

Aktionsprogramm für nachhaltigen Hochwasserschutz im Einzugsgebiet der Donau


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Last Edit: 2006-03-13