Unlike cities which regularly endure floods because of tropical weather patterns, the city of Alexandria in Egypt suffers from occasional floods. Because these floods happen sporadically, there are no mechanisms in place that can warn local authorities. This means that when such a flood happens, it is an unexpected event that may have deadly consequences. IHE Delft and partners are involved in the Anticipatory Flood Management in Alexandria (AFMA) project. The project oversees the development of both long term strategies and short term actions, to better prepare the city for the next flood.
In 2015, at least seven people fell victim to a disastrous flood, which also cost the local government and its citizens millions of euros. Professor Abdelaziz Konsowa, Vice President for Community Service and Environment Development of Alexandria University visited the Institute last week. He stressed the importance of the AFMA project:
"This project is very important for Alexandria, especially when we are talking about the people and businesses in the city. When we suffered from the disastrous floods in 2015, Alexandria literally stopped, as most people couldn’t go to work for at least a week or two. When we measured the business loss these events caused at the time, the estimate was of around 25 million euros,” says Professor Konsowa.
The project oversees the development of both long term strategies and short term actions to better prepare the city for the next flood. Professor Chris Zevenbergen of IHE Delft claims that there are two main challenges cities such as Alexandria are facing in relation to water crises.
Chris Zevenbergen: "First of all, cities lack the capacity to make good strategic long-term plans. Secondly, they have difficulty to come up with projects that banks find trustworthy to financially support. Projects are conceived as standalone interventions and not part of an integrated, broader strategic plan."
There is a huge need to upgrade the current system, to accommodate population growth and to guide that growth in a sustainable water sensitive direction. "Since the inception of the project we progressed a lot on the scientific part, more than we even expected” says Biswa Bhattacharya of IHE Delft. “We are currently working on ICT solutions for citizens (on their smartphone or laptop) so that we can measure flooding data and have access to the latest flood information on the ground.” he adds.
Alexandria is not the only city in the region that suffers from occasional flooding. Plenty of cities in the region suffer from the same issue. The AFMA project will serve as a catalyst for upscaling to other Arab city regions.
Professor Bhattacharya: “Alexandria is kind of a model city in many ways. Neighbouring regions have a similar climate, similar rainfall and flooding scenario”. The partner consortium has been brainstorming how to share the solutions with different cities in the region.
Some of the students from the University of Alexandria are following short courses at IHE Delft under the AFMA project. Not only students are expanding their knowledge, but also professionals who work in the AFMA project. Some of the training will happen at IHE Delft. These people will become future trainers to train others in Egypt and beyond.
The AFMA project will develop and implement innovative infrastructure solutions, such as flood forecasting and warning, evacuation and recovery plans and increase the capacity of drainage systems. The project is a public-private partnership that aims to connect engineers, planners, architects, designers and other experts to community members, companies and local government to propose new solutions that will strengthen the city’s resilience to severe rain storms.
This project will lead to a significantly reduced impact of flooding, as a result of climate change, on society in general and in particular the livelihoods of the poorest populations of Alexandria, Egypt. To achieve this, IHE Delft works closely together with the Holding company for Water and Wastewater, Alexandria University, contracting company Montaser, Group of Integrated Design and the Alexandria Business Association.