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Greener anti-flood investments will be win-win

From @Breakingviews: Catastrophic flooding has prompted calls to build more dams and reservoirs, including from German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s presumed successor, Armin Laschet. But there are smarter alternatives, writes @AntonyMCurrie

7/26/2021 4:38:00 PM

From Breakingviews: Catastrophic flooding has prompted calls to build more dams and reservoirs, including from German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s presumed successor, Armin Laschet. But there are smarter alternatives, writes AntonyMCurrie

If climate change is a shark, then water is its teeth. That became clear after deadly flooding in parts of Germany and China this month – and a less intense deluge in London – inundated everything from mines to subways and took hydropower stations offline. The calamity prompted calls to build more dams and reservoirs, including from German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s presumed successor, Armin Laschet. But there are smarter alternatives.

Some 2 billion people already live in areas prone to freshwater inundation, according to The Nature Conservancy, and a quarter of the world’s cropland – as much as 45% in India and 31% in China – is located in such sites. Rising global temperatures increase the likelihood of more intense storms. Yet fewer than a fifth of 800 cities surveyed by climate-finance non-profit CDP have undertaken flood mapping.

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Technology can be deployed to better assess where flooding may occur. This is partly what prompted $66 billion Autodesk(ADSK.O)to pay $1 billion earlier this year for water infrastructure software provider Innovyze, whose data would be useful for businesses, governments, investors and insurers. Reconstruction costs in Germany, for instance, could run to tens of billions of euros, according to Finance Minister Olaf Scholz.

Expanding or restoring wetlands and forests upstream would help, as would installing defences like stormwater systems and permeable concrete in and around towns. Such initiatives would give rivers more scope to flood without causing catastrophic damage. Some of these measures also capture carbon and store water, which would be useful since aridity is increasingly common in the same areas. Another bonus is that they are usually quicker to build than dams and reservoirs, and cheaper: the price tag of a Dutch plan to make the Indian city of Chennai water-secure is a third of a $1.5 billion traditional engineering project.

Such innovations have so far been confined to pilot projects, limiting their effectiveness. Broader deployment would fix that – and could create a handy new asset class for investors looking to make their portfolios greener.Followon TwitterCONTEXT NEWS

- At least 25 people were killed in China’s Henan province due to floods that were caused by almost a year’s worth of rain falling between July 17 and July 20. Dozens of dams and reservoirs breached their safety levels in the province, where around 100 million people live, and some 100,000 people were evacuated from the regional capital, Zhengzhou.

- Around 200 people were killed as a result of flooding that inundated parts of Europe since July 13. At least 160 of the victims were in Germany, with another 37 in Belgium, and hundreds more are still missing.- Flood-related damage in the German states of North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate could cost insurers 5 billion euros, German insurance industry association GDV said on July 21. German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said overall reconstruction costs could run to tens of billions of euros.

- Parts of London were waterlogged on July 25 following heavy thunderstorms.Editing by Swaha Pattanaik and Oliver TaslicBreakingviewsReuters Breakingviews is the world's leading source of agenda-setting financial insight. As the Reuters brand for financial commentary, we dissect the big business and economic stories as they break around the world every day. A global team of about 30 correspondents in New York, London, Hong Kong and other major cities provides expert analysis in real time.

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Residents say flood-hit German towns got little warningAHRWEILER, Germany (AP) — Like other residents of his town in Germany, Wolfgang Huste knew a flood was coming. What nobody told him, he says, was how bad it would be. The 66-year-old antiquarian bookseller from Ahrweiler said the first serious warning to evacuate or move to higher floors of buildings close to the Ahr River came through loudspeaker announcements around 8 p.m. Alhamdulillah....O Allah, make them an example and tear them apart... You can run from a fire but water is swifter and faster and... You'd think they would've had a far more developed emergency system. As terrible as the US is at most government-type-things, they at least have that down.

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