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Floods, data becomes an ally to prevent and manage

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Floods, data becomes an ally to prevent and manage

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Floods and inundations are unfortunately news these days also in Italy. Water brings with it some of the most costly catastrophe events – often in terms of human lives – but also for loss of biodiversity, as well as obviously causing heavy economic damage. And cities, large or small, are highly exposed territories. Not only due to the effects caused by the climate crisis, but also – as highlighted by a recent article in Nature – due to a short-sightedness linked to urbanization models: since 1985 human settlements, from villages to megacities, have expanded precisely in the current flood zones .

The unbridled overbuilding, which a recent Ispra report highlights where in 2022 another 77 square kilometers were covered, +10% compared to 2021, also shows a direct cause in Italy: in addition to exposing cities to the increase in temperature, the consumption of soil decreases its ability to absorb water. And as the report reports, “13% of total land consumption (around 900 hectares) falls in areas of medium hydraulic danger and also affects the population’s exposure to hydrogeological risk.”

The use of monitoring technologies first and intervention actions afterwards are on the working table of mayors, councilors and technicians of Italian municipalities. Too often, however, we are still caught off guard.

Climate risk maps

The issue pushed the European Commission to publish a tool to create culture and raise the bar of information. The map shows that over 14 thousand areas of the EU are at significant risk of floods. Google aims to report the risk of flooding up to 7 days in advance through the FloodHub platform which for a few months has also incorporated some European geographical areas, including Italy. Another useful map is the one created by Legambiente: CittàClima. The objective is to map the climate risk on cities to understand what is happening in the Italian territory and highlight, where possible, the relationship between the acceleration of climate processes and problems linked to settlement or infrastructure factors in the Italian territory. Here, information on the impacts of climate events on urban areas, infrastructures and historical assets is collected and processed in real time.

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There is no shortage of data but it must be used well

Practical demonstrations of how technology raises the bar for risk management solutions. As Max Claps, research director of IDC Government Insights, suggests: «Resilience to short-term shocks is an imperative». The problem, according to the analyst, is not so much the availability of funds (such as the 8 billion of the Pnnr to make public infrastructures more resilient), rather the lack “of planning, skills shortages, the slowness of public procurement and insufficient skills and ability to review”.

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