Germany: Building back sustainably after a flood
The government has approved a €30 billion ($34 billion) fund to support those affected by the flood. Authorities have also published updated flood zone maps of the Ahr River Valley, showing where new construction is no longer permitted. Of the thousands of homes that were damaged, local authorities have said just 34 are not allowed to be rebuilt due to flood risk.
Most residents in the floodplain will be allowed to renovate and rebuild their homes as before, in the same spot. But there will be restrictions for those building from scratch. The details are still sketchy in the wake of the flood, but the regulating authority says this could include measures such as installing fuse boxes on the upper floors so that power supply won't be interrupted by a flooded basement.
Professor Christian Kuhlicke, an expert on environmental risks and extreme events at Leipzig's Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research, says there needs to be "a fundamental change" in the way people build in small river catchments like the Ahr Valley, where homes are often unprotected from flood risk.
In the case of the Ahr Valley, he would like to see more regulation, including incentives for flood-resilient buildings. Instead, he says decisions about how to rebuild, or whether to relocate, are largely left up to the residents and communities themselves: "That means that the political signal is rather: We want to keep the communities in the valley."
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