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A review of effective flood forecasting, warning and response system for application in South Africa

LA Du Plessis


Cyclone Eline caused severe flood damage in South Africa during February 2000. It has been estimated that the total amount lost was approximately R3 000 million. South African farmers lost more than 50% of their export products. Flood damages and disruptions to humans and animal species were even bigger in Mozambique. The emphasis in South Africa is still on, inter alia, structural mitigation measures. Policy-makers seek foreign support and finances, especially during the reconstruction phase after floods, for reparation purposes only. Little to no attention has been given to scientific hazard and risk assessments to determine a sustainable flood standard for different river reaches, which will contribute to appropriate mitigation and prevention strategies. The aim, after flood disasters, is primarily to ensure that flood losses will be covered and to restore the level of existence of flood victims to where it was before the flood. Furthermore, mainly because of institutional problems currently experienced in South Africa, roles and responsibilities of institutions involved in disaster management are not clearly identified. Last mentioned are the reason for absence in South Africa of a formal flood forecast, warning and response system (FFWRS). In most cases where a flood warning system exists, there is evidence that it is insufficient, mainly because of a lack of knowledge and understanding of a well-functioning, appropriate FFWRS. Sustainable prevention and mitigation strategies should be achieved within a holistic integrated catchment management approach. Such approach is multidisciplinary and is therefore not based on a single engineering solution. The main aim of this paper is to discuss one aspect covered by a holistic integrated catchment management approach, namely a flood forecast, warning and response system, which contributes to the prevention and mitigation of flood losses.

WaterSA Vol.28(2) 2002: 129-138
AJOL African Journals Online