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Values Flood Control e

Values Flood Control e

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Published by: Daisy on Nov 17, 2008
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02/23/2013

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LOOD LOOD 
ONTROL ONTROL 
 W 
ETLANDS
HOLD
HEAVYRAINFALLS
,preventingpossible flooding downstream. By storing the water in the soil or retaining it in the surface waters of lakes, marshes, etc., wetlands reduce theneed for expensive engineered structures. Wetlandvegetation also plays a role in slowing down theflow of flood water. A recent study in the USA estimated that 0.4 hectares of wetland can storeover 6,000 cubic metres of floodwater.The “value” of this function is not often assessed in economic terms, although where efforts aremade the value proves considerable: the intact 3,800 hectares of wetlands along part of the mainstream of the Charles River in the USA have been valued at US$ 17 million per year, the estimat-ed cost of flood damages that would result if they were drained. More readily available are figureson the cost of flood damage after this functionhas been lost or seriously eroded by unsustain-able development.The Chinese have suffered an increasing fre-quency of devastating floods since the turn of the last century. Their worst floods occurred in1998, affecting several rivers including the Yangtze. The statistics were appalling – 230million people affected, 20 million people dis-placed, over 3,500 killed, 7 million homesdestroyed, 15 million farmers suffering loss of their crops; the estimated total economic lossesexceeded US$ 32 billion. Analysis of the causesidentified increasing population as the rootproblem, fuelling many environmentalchanges: an increase in settlements in low-lyingareas subject to floods; reclamation of the wet-lands around lakes and rivers for cultivation tofeed the growing population, thus reducingtheir flood absorption capacity; serious defor-estation in the upper reaches of the rivers for
 
In Brief 
Wetlands often play a crucial role inflood control.Loss of floodplains toagriculture and human habitationhas reduced this capacity.Construction of levees and dams onrivers to improve flood control haveoften had the reverse effect.
Floodplain restoration and removalof structures is providing a partialsolution in many countries.
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Economic losses in the 1998 floodsin China amounted to US$ 32 billion.
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The 1993 floods along theMississippi caused US$ 12-16 billionin damages.
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3,800 ha of intact wetlands on theCharles River have been valued atUS$ 17 million per year in terms of flood protection alone.
Values andFunctions
Wetland
Flooding caused by heavy rain and destruction of the floodplain,Frankfurt,Germany.
Photo:WWF-Canon/Hartmut Jungius

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