Oireachtas report on November floods

The Oireachtas Joint Committee on the Environment etc published a report on the November floods while I was on holiday. It is interesting both for what it says and does not say.

The report is clear about responsibilities: There are too many agencies involved, and no one took the lead. The report argues that the Minister of the Environment should take charge.

The committee also laments the role played by the ESB, and underlines that perhaps it should have been involved in Cork’s flood management.

The report has a little gem: “The ESB made the point that they issued two warnings on Thursday, 19th November, which was unique. However, the significance of the two notifications wasn’t appreciated by the general public.” Perhaps that is because the general public did not understand that “higher than 300 m3/s” really meant 535 m3/s. Along the same lines, ESB apparently told the Lee Waterworks at 22:10 that 450 m3/s was being released, while the actual release had reached 546 m3/s by 21:50. The report does not make much of this, but it does call for further investigations.

The report is silent on a number of things. It avoids questions of liability. It calls on the OPW to develop a flood warning system, but omits that crucial data are off-limits to the OPW and that the data exchange between Met Eireann and OPW is not perfect either. The report acknowledges that there too many agencies involved, but it does not name those that should be relieved from their duties.

The list of invitees to the hearings is interesting too: Only insiders were heard. Not at single independent expert was invited.

Keynes and floods

Floods do a lot of damage.

Floods also harm production, but Ireland has overcapacity at the moment. Flood repairs are labour-intensive, and a lot of stuff will need to be replaced. This will partly be paid for by the insurance companies, who will in turn get their money back from international reinsurers. Affected households will also tap their savings.

Flood restoration thus stimulates demand.

We don’t want floods. But if we must have floods, and if we could time floods, we would have them in the depths of a recession.

This is no consolation for those affected.

See also the Irish Times

Lessons from the floods

Now that the worst seems to be over, it is time to start thinking about the next flood. Today’s piece in the Independent is a small start.