Catastrophic floods

Torrential rains and floods have devastated large parts of central Europe last week and are threatening to wreak havoc in more areas.

A number of countries have been affected badly by the unexpected natural disaster. Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria and Hungary were the worst hit with cities and countryside virtually becoming large stretches of water. Europe’s biggest river, the Danube, and smaller ones like the Elbe rose after rains that are usually received in about two months’ time fell in just two days. The most recent flood catastrophe in Europe was in 2002 which resulted in much loss of lives and damage to property.  This year’s floods have exceeded the 2002 levels in many places. It has even been claimed that in some places they were the worst to happen in the last five centuries.

Twenty people have been reported killed but there was loss of property worth billions of euros.  The number of casualties does not reflect the magnitude of the calamity because rescue operations were efficient and more people were evacuated as the waters travelled downstream through countries and cities. But the economic impact will be severe as the entire Euozone region is going through a serious economic downturn.  A matter of more serious concern is whether the  dramatic changes in nature are just freak events or indications of a more enduring and drastic shift.

The European Environment Agency (EEA), the EU’s premier environmental body, has said that the floods mark an increase in the number of extreme weather events caused by climate change.  It has warned of more  frequent floods, storms and other meteorological catastrophes occurring in the coming decades unless steps are taken to control climate change.  Other agencies have also issued similar warnings. A Japanese research institute has said that 42 per cent of the world’s land area will face the risk of flooding in the coming decades.  Heat waves, receding ice and snow, droughts and other irregular natural phenomena are more common now.

These have been increasing since 1980s. But governments have hardly listened to the warnings. Even as the EEA sounded a warning, it should be noted that the developed countries whom the EU represents have not taken positive and helpful positions in the climate change negotiations. There is urgent need to accept the reality of climate change and to take action. 

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