Mitigating devastating floods through building infrastructure in the Vrbas River basin

Oct 24, 2016

Infrastructural measures will mitigate flood risk within the Vrbas basin. Photo: UNDP BiH

More than 305,000 people in the Vrbas River basin in Bosnia and Herzegovina are exposed to recurrent flooding and its devastating impacts. In order to mitigate flood effects within the basin, and to help communities better cope with flood events, the UNDP supported project “Technology transfer for climate resilient flood management in Vrbas River Basin” announced the implementation of important new infrastructural measures.

In cooperation with municipalities throughout the Vrbas River Basin (VRB), 10-15 projects will be implemented, with a net value up to the USD$400,000. The final selection of the flood reduction measures will be done in accordance with the results of sophisticated flood modelling, commissioned specifically for the project. The resulting tools will empower decision makers to arrive at a well-informed, robust flood risk management plan for the VRB. The call for proposals will be released in spring 2017, and will fund infrastructure measures throughout the VRB.

Bosnia and Herzegovina is significantly exposed to the threats of climate change, in particular the frequency and magnitude of floods from its major rivers. Tripling in frequency in the last decade, recurrent floods and landslides are erosive and damaging to human life and socio-economic gains. In previous floods these losses have been exacerbated by limited capacity to anticipate and respond.

"This is a great opportunity for each local community within the basin to reduce flood risk. The Laktasi municipality is significantly exposed to the flooding because 80% of the population lives in the flood zone. We will prepare the proposal and budgetary funds necessary for co-financing," said Dragan Kelecevic, an officer from the Laktasi municipality.

The VRB is home to the cities of Bugojno, Jajce, Čelinac, Laktaši, Banja Luka among others; the communities living therein are largely rural and agrarian. Representatives of municipalities throughout the VRB came together in late September to discuss allocating funds for the flood risk measures which will preserve their lands and livelihoods.

During the first year of the project, significant baseline efforts established a hydro-meteorological network in the basin, decided on common methodologies for hazard and risk maps, assembled precision 3D images of the VRB, initiated hydrological and hydraulic models, completed a socio-economic survey, drafted terms of reference for flood forecasting and early warning systems, and created and installed the VRB Geoportal.

Planned future activities include flood risk assessment for agricultural land, as well as proposed measures for their mitigation. Drafting of the flood forecasting and early warning system in the local communities of the basin is ongoing, in close co-operation with public utilities and first responders, and includes the assembly of a GIS database for local communities.

By shoring up necessary infrastructure, the project is working to ensure that the governments of BiH and the communities of the Vrbas River Basin are able to sustainably establish long-term, climate resilient flood management.