A three-day practical workshop on “Nature-based Solutions (NbS) for Flood Prevention in South-Eastern Europe”, organized jointly by the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN) and the Regional Office for Eastern Europe and Central Asia of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN ECARO), took place on the Isle of Vilm, Germany, from 4-8 December, 2017 at the premises of the International Academy for Nature Conservation.
During the workshop, participants from government institutions, NGO sector and the academia from South East Europe (SEE) familiarised themselves with global polices and developments related to Nature-based Solutions, looking at ways in which healthy, well-functioning ecosystems improve the resilience of nature and society. NbS concept and main ecosystem approaches were introduced and discussed in more detail. Flood risk and drivers of risk were presented, and the potential for applying Nature-based Solutions for flood prevention in SEE was investigated. Natural and green infrastructure approaches were brought up as solutions for creating urban resilience. Following the presentations, participants identified the most appropriate sites for applying NbS within respective state borders, as well as challenges and barriers for their implementation, with the view to applying local and regional solutions.
Gisela Stolpe, Head of the International Academy for Nature Conservation at the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation shared her impressions from the workshop: "Within its national flood prevention strategy Germany is putting an emphasis on restoring floodplains as natural solutions to flood defence. It was great to see that some extensive floodplains still exist in the Balkan region and serve as important flood buffers - quite different to Germany where most natural floodplains disappeared long time ago. Maintaining these and restoring others should be part of a much needed strategy to cope with the increasing flood risk in the Balkans. In this European wide challenge Germany is eager to share experience on natural solutions to flood prevention."
The workshop in Vilm is a continuation of the momentum gained after the first Ecosystem-based Disaster Risk Reduction training, organized in 2015 by IUCN ECARO together with the Global Ecosystem Management Programme. This training was followed by two scoping studies on the potential for the application of NbS in Albania and Serbia, with specific focus on disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation.
Sanja Pokrajac, Programme Officer for Nature-based Solutions in IUCN ECARO explains: “Recognition for NbS is growing worldwide, a fact that is also reflected in the SEE region. Introducing the concept in SEE two years ago was a first step that has now grown into a serious approach accepted by governments and other organisations working in the region.”
IUCN ECARO, in cooperation with BfN and other partners working in the SEE region, will continue to raise awareness, strengthen knowledge and build an evidence base that will reflect the benefits of applying NbS. With this in view, a regional study on “Nature-based Solutions for Flood Prevention in South-Eastern Europe” will be developed using inputs from the workshop in Vilm, with focus on further examining the proposed sites across the SEE region.