Will we ever learn lessons from flooding?

 
A swan on a flooded field next to the river Thames in Windsor, Berkshire

As the winds accelerate and the rivers rise, many are asking if we ever learn the lessons of previous floods.

After the severe inundations of 2007, Sir Michael Pitt was asked to head an independent review.

I interviewed him at the time and he was horrified by multiple failures of planning, warning and response.

A key concern was the lack of what's called resilience: the robustness of everything from power supplies to railways.

Now, as we see signalling equipment waterlogged, among many examples, there will be questions about how seriously the threat of flooding has been taken.

One of the Pitt Review's worries was that the various agencies were not properly coordinated.

Talking to people from the Met Office and the Environment Agency, that problem does seem to have improved.

But one of the central conclusions remains unanswered: that spending on flood defence should rise faster than inflation.

Someone who was close to the review told me privately that the government was now struggling to catch up and had yet to prepare emergency workers and the public for what will be a long haul.

 
David Shukman Article written by David Shukman David Shukman Science editor

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  • rate this
    +25

    Comment number 4.

    "Will we ever learn lessons from flooding?"

    Well. The most apparent lesson is from the attitude displayed by the govt. When it was 'only' farmers in Somerset getting flooded it was, "oh dear". But when 'stock-broker' belt got a bit of rain we had, "money is no object"

    Draw your own conclusions

  • rate this
    +14

    Comment number 13.

    We have learnt that once Dave realises that votes are at stake he tries to look like he cares and wants to do something. Otherwise it is typical politicians games. Try to divert the blame onto anyone but themselves.

  • rate this
    +14

    Comment number 29.

    Developer greed - building on cheap flood-plains.
    Stupid (bent?) planners giving permission.
    Farmers happy to farm on drained wetlands and recovered old deltas then complaining when said land occasionally floods.
    Historically bad land management increasing run-off.
    Deforestation - trees require substantial quantities of water.
    Etc.

    Previous generations screwed-up - now some of us pay the price.

  • rate this
    +12

    Comment number 10.

    Too many people in general (population density) and too many houses on flood plains + rain = trouble eventually (and repeatedly).

    It's simply not possible to channel all the rain in the UK out to sea without any flooding ever.

    It's unsurprising that the wetest January in 300 years has caused flood, it would be much more surprising IF it had NOT.

    It's not about lessons, so much as reality.

  • rate this
    +11

    Comment number 17.

    If people insist on continuing to build in flood plains, they could at least build flood proof houses,.. perhaps using buoyant foundations like in some newer Dutch houses,.. or raised one level about the ground.

 

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