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Territories faced with natural disasters: what tools for risk prevention?

Territories faced with natural disasters: what tools for risk prevention?

Type of text : Study
Type of referral : Own initiative
Working group : Delegation for long-range planning and evaluation of public policies

Rapporteur(s) :

Date adopted : 27/10/2015 | Period : 2010-2015
There are considerable current and future issues associated with preventing natural risks. Recent events, of course, have confirmed that natural disasters are affecting our country on a regular basis, resulting in consequences that could prove tragic with regard to humankind, as was sadly demonstrated by the floods experienced in a number of towns along the Côte d’Azur in October 2015. The increasing frequency of such floods is partially explained by anthropogenic changes to our environment (such as soil sealing as a result of urbanisation, the artificialisation of watercourses, etc.). It is also believed that climate change will have a major medium to long-term impact on certain meteorological phenomena by intensifying periods of drought, heat waves and heavy precipitation, among other things. 
Furthermore, in light of the recurrent issues associated with territorial development, demographic growth, real estate pressure in the most appealing parts of our country, etc., the ESEC would favour the following three approaches: 
  • evaluative, for the purposes of improving the efficacy and efficiency of public initiatives designed to help prevent natural risks;
  • territorial, for the purposes to taking into account the more specific natural phenomena to which the overseas territories are exposed, for example;
  • prospective, with a view to raising awareness of the risk and considering potential solutions for the future.
This study is also intended to outline the various natural risks facing our territory with the emphasis notably on flooding and the contraction and expansion of clay, which represent the greatest economic costs associated with natural disasters. It then looks at public prevention systems with a view to demonstrating that whilst there may be many tools already available, they are nevertheless relatively complex to implement. The two-tier insurance system (land insurance policy and Cat-Nat natural disaster system) is also outlined and confirms that an appropriate level of compensation is awarded for damages, although this positive aspect might be counterbalanced by the fact that a certain removal of accountability has been observed among insured parties. 
Three series of avenues are then highlighted with a view to improving risk prevention and anticipating the various challenges that remain to be overcome in the future in order to improve territorial resilience strategies and the development of mitigation measures. This prospective aspect does not, however, rule out the need to take past events into consideration in order to remind ourselves of the risk and draw useful lessons from the past to enable us to better prepare for future disasters. Particular light is shed on the prospective management of the risk of a rise in the water levels of the Seine, the hundred-year nature of which serves as a reminder of the strong likelihood of a disaster of a comparable scale to that experienced in 1910 recurring sooner or later. The damage caused would have nationwide impact were such a rise in water