WWF and the USAID Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance published Natural and Nature-Based Flood Management: A Green Guide (the Flood Green Guide, or FGG) in 2017 as a resource for flood managers. Using the FGG, managers can broaden and strengthen flood risk reduction approaches with local community partners by incorporating nature-based, or “soft,” engineering methods into their flood management plans.
But communities in any one region of the world face very different challenges from those in other regions — for example, challenges related to local geology, hydrology, climate, population size and density, and financial and institutional capacity.
So flood managers using the Flood Green Guide, or any guidance tool, will most likely need to develop a specific approach for their local conditions and community priorities.
In Tajikistan, for example, the United Nations Development Programme recently commissioned the development of a local version of the Flood Green Guide. The Flood Disaster Risk Reduction Manual for Tajikistan aims to help the country’s government officials, engineers, nongovernmental organizations and local communities incorporate nature-based methods into their flood management programs.
Tajikistan, a land-locked country in Central Asia, comprises mainly high and rugged mountains. Glaciers in these mountains are a major source of runoff into the rivers along the country’s low-lying regions, where most Tajikistan residents live.
Heavy rains and glacial melt cause flooding and mudflows in these areas. In May 2018, for example, days of heavy rain caused flash floods in southern villages in the Panj River, which runs along the Tajikistan-Afghanistan border. In July 2015, high temperatures caused glacial melt and mudflows, prompting officials to evacuate 10,000 residents, according to Floodlist.
Given Tajikistan’s layout — heavily populated communities situated on rivers that flood often — programs like UNDP recognize the need for flood management methods that take these local features into account.
The three-part UNDP manual provides guidance for flood risk assessment and implementation of structural and nonstructural management measures, as well as step-by-step design guidance and case studies of existing flood mitigation efforts in Tajikistan.
[See the three-part UNDP manual here: Part 1, Part 2 & Part 3]
Although based on the FGG framework, the UNDP manual has some differences from the FGG. For example, the UNDP manual focuses on many individual hard and soft structural flood management methods — like vegetation restoration in the upper watershed to reduce runoff into lower areas (a soft method), and dams to reduce the intensity of river flow (a hard method) — and includes detailed technical design specifications for these methods.
The FGG, on the other hand, promotes a flood management approach that uses a combination of nonstructural methods like land-use planning; soft structural methods like wetland restoration; and, if needed, hard structural methods like retention ponds.
The two guides together can give flood managers and community members in Tajikistan a set of potential better practices to learn from as they determine how to reduce risk for communities.
WWF provided training on the FGG in Tajikistan in October 2017 as part of an Eco-DRR (disaster risk reduction) week sponsored by the Tajikistan Committee of Emergency Situations and Civil Defense and organized by UNDP Tajikistan, with support from Swiss Development Cooperation in collaboration with Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit.
“When we developed the Flood Green Guide, we were really hoping that others could use it in combination with more specific technical design guidelines for their own local context,” said Dr. Missaka Hettiarachchi of WWF, who conducted the FGG training in Tajikistan. “There are so many factors to consider in flood management depending on where you live, that there can’t be just one definitive set of directions. Learning what people in other regions are doing helps all of us develop better practices, and that’s why I’m pleased UNDP and their collaborators have developed this guide.”
With little more than a year since WWF published the Flood Green Guide, this is one of the first times it’s been used to create complementary guidelines.
“This is an opportunity for more communication among flood managers, engineers, researchers, local community members and others throughout the world working to advance better flood management practices,” said Anita van Breda, senior director of WWF’s Environment and Disaster Management program. “We look forward to supporting more work applying the FGG at the local level in the future.”