Flood Hazard Management: British and International Perspectives

By John Handmer | Go to book overview

1

OBJECTIVES AND ORGANISATION

John W. Handmer

Flood Hazard Research Centre Middlesex Polytechnic


INTRODUCTION

In some important respects floodplain management and flood hazard research is different in Britain from that in other countries.

Mainstream flood hazard research in the US, embodied by the work of the geographer Gilbert White and his colleagues, commenced with a series of policy oriented documents. Initially these papers promoted the idea that structural flood protection works were not the only way to tackle flood problems (White, 1945). Later they presented evidence that such works had actually helped to increase flood damages and escalated the possibility of catastrophic losses (White et al, 1958; White, 1961). From the 1960s onwards many of White's concepts were incorporated into US federal and state government policy documents such as A Unified National Program for Managing Flood Losses (US Congress, 1966). US reseachers have continued to play important roles in policy development and implementation. In addition much North American flood hazard research has focussed on theoretical issues and the economic and physical aspects of the hazard.

As indicated above the situation in Britain stands in contrast. In general, published material has not been normative in a policy sense; it has not explored what policy or administrative procedures should or could be like. Instead, most research energy has concentrated on the refinement of techniques to implement existing policy, while some efforts have been directed towards behavioural studies (e.g. Parker, 1976; Smith and Tobin, 1979), and others have examined theoretical aspects (Lewis, 1979). The major work in this area has been that of the Flood Hazard Research Centre at Middlesex Polytechnic. The Centre's procedures for flood damage assessment have been adopted by the Ministry for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food as the required method for benefit estimation in benefit-cost analysis (Penning-Rowsell and Chatterton,

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