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The River Rhine is one of Europe's largest and most used waterways.
The source of this great river can be found in the Swiss Alps, where
it stretches 1,320km until it flows out into the Dutch North Sea. The
Rhine has a long history of intense flooding and recent devastating
floods in the 1990's have caused considerable damage and are well
remembered by the local population.
The causes of these forceful floods can be traced back to a number of
different things including human factors such as deforestation, the
greenhouse effect (this is show by the facts stating the 1Â°C
temperature rise in southern Germany and the winter precipitation in
the Rhine catchment increasing by 40%) and the straightening of the
Rhine for commercial purposes. Humans currently use 80% of the former
floodplains. Roads and railways cross the alluvial areas behind the
protecting dykes; cities and villages have spread to the fertile river
plains. This inundation of the floodplains has caused flooding in the
lower reaches of the river during the period of snowmelts in spring.
In 1995 heavy rainfall struck many parts of Europe, so heavy infact
that some areas experienced it continuously from November 1994 to
February 1995. The snow on the Alps melted quickly and the ground was
saturated due to the heavy rainfall, this meant that further rain was
hastily transported to rivers as overland flow.
Human causes include urbanisation in the Rhine catchment, which has
led to a threefold increase in its built-up areas; the concrete and
tarmac send more water to the river than the fields which they
replaced. Also pressure for use as farmland or building means that the
Rhine has lost much of its riverside marsh and floodplain that used to
hold back floodwater.
Floods can cause great damage to land and water-related constructions,
which can have disastrous consequences for people and economies, both
short and long-term.
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of the Rhine there will be many devastating consequences. In the
Netherlands many of the polders, which are low laying areas enclosed
by protective embankments called dykes, were flooded, four people
died, some roads became impassable, much emergency reinforcement work
had to carried out on the dykes which where made from sand and clay
which was saturated making them more prone to collapse, 250,000 people
where evacuated, police and soldiers had to guarded the empty houses
from looters, many homes where flooded, greenhouse where flooded and
lost along with stocks of flowers, fruit and vegetables, 1,000,000,000
cattle were evacuated which led to some being infected with foot rot
and reduced milk yields because of the disturbance, waterways were
closed to ships for two weeks thus leading to many oil and dry bulk
barges being stranded and finally millions of pounds where lost to pay
for all this flood damage caused.
Thanks to the authorities being well prepared a full-scale disaster
was avoided. This shows us that embankments and other flood protection
structures along the Rhine cannot grant absolute protection and that
settlements and other forms of land use in flood-prone areas present a
particular damage risk.
After such devastating flooding authorities will be quick to react to
make sure that no further damage is caused in the immediate or
long-term future. Some short-term precautions taken include sandbags
and temporary barriers across doors and windows, evacuation of people
and livestock, removing carpet and furniture to higher floors,
constructing temporary dykes, clear subways and underpasses, close
roads at risk of flooding, installation of portable pumps and sealing
doors and window frames with putty or foam.
To help tackle flooding in the long run afforestation in the Rhine
basin to help intercept more rain is being encouraged along with land
uses in the Rhine basin which increase absorption of rainwater, e.g.
contour ploughing and increasing the area of parks and gardens in
urban areas. Other percussions can be taken such as limiting the
residential development in areas, which are likely to flood, many
lives can be saved and the damage costs can be reduced, new early
warning systems should improve confidence and response but only if its
predictions are accurate and the warnings are communicated
effectively. The Action Plan on Flood Defence was signed by the
ministers of the Rhine at Rotterdam in 1998. This commits â‚¬ 12 billion
over the next twenty years to reduce the frequency and severity of
floods in the lower reaches of the Rhine.
[IMAGE]Although flooding is an inevitable part of nature and will
never be unavoidable, but greater steps are being taken in order for
the consequences of flooding to be less devastating. These include
research into better and new forms of flood protection and creating
better awareness with the public so they know what to do during a
flood and how to reduce home damage.