Urban Flood Risk Management in the Pacific

This Knowledge Note describes a benchmarking method developed to track the progress of Pacific Island Countries (PICs) on best-practice flood risk management (FRM). FRM is a process for assessing flood risk, evaluating options to manage the risk, and implementing a strategic plan to reduce risk.

The method was applied to assess current urban FRM practices in Fiji, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu, focusing on riverine flood hazards. The results show the following:

  • The quality of hydrological data available for hydrodynamic modeling is generally poor, reflecting institutional and resourcing issues. Nonetheless, in recent years significant advances have been made in flood modeling and mapping for some of the most urbanized floodplains in the region.
  • Reasonably good exposure data sets are available for some of the most flood-prone cities and towns in the region, but few studies have assessed the risk to property and life for the full range of floods that may be experienced.
  • There has been a tendency for PICs to implement structural works rather than softer solutions, sometimes without comprehensive assessments and engagement.
  • Risk-informed land use planning has faced many challenges, including the extent of customary land ownership and the growth of informal settlements, and has been slow to take hold.
  • There has been some progress in flood early warning systems, though the “flashy” nature of floods and the maintenance of monitoring and dissemination systems present challenges.
  • Although high-level Disaster Management Plans exist, there remains a need for flood hazard subplans, local plans, standard operating procedures, and resourcing and training of personnel.
  • Some good initiatives to enhance community preparedness have been implemented, but they need to be better sustained and targeted to address common misperceptions.
  • Although various FRM projects have been implemented over recent years, the lack of robust governance arrangements impacts the integration and sustainability of this work.
  • PICs have some way to go to achieve an evidence-based, integrated mix of FRM interventions that include both structural and nonstructural measures.

Download document