Natural disasters, such as floods, are definitely worth our attention. Even Norway, which can be considered one of the most notorious promoters of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and a leader in examples of climate change, can encounter difficulties in managing such crises. In 2011 and 2013, the south-eastern parts of Norway, more exactly the two municipalities, Fron and Ringebu, were hit by severe flooding from the river of Gudbrandsdalslågen. Considering Norway’s dedication to sustainable development, in this case with a focus on Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities, and Goal 13: Climate Action, the Norwegian government’s structures had to take action in order to mitigate the damage and prevent further disaster.
The Directorate for Civil Protection (DSB) and the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate (NVE), were the two main government agencies responsible for the affected municipalities. Although attention and action for the affected municipalities have been given from the central level of authority to the regional and then local, the process itself was rather slow and weak mostly for 2011, with some improvements for 2013. The issue of funds was one major barrier in achieving a fair distribution of resources among the two municipalities. This was the case with Fron that has benefited from more resources than Ringebu because of its large power supply industry. Also, a problem of coordination and cooperation was visible for Norway’s government layers, since there was confusion on whether funds should be allocated for security in the community for future floods or rebuilding houses. Furthermore, Norway’s two municipalities were not prepared for the flood in 2011 to report this crisis timely, considering the telecommunications networks in the region were not functioning because of the harsh weather conditions, thus sharing information with the government central authority was hardly possible.
After the flood in 2011, NVE started to implement the recommendations that followed after the crisis, in order to prevent future disasters of this dimension. Unfortunately, NVE claimed that it couldn’t fulfill all of the necessary requirements because of insufficient funds and a relatively short time until the next flood occurred, in 2013. Fortunately, Norway’s appointed agencies did manage to tackle some of the initiatives, such as producing scientific knowledge, the so-called ‘flood maps’, for areas that are at flood risk, and to move the community from these dangerous zones to safer places. The systemic risk awareness of floods was also taken into consideration and was notably higher in 2013 compared to 2011. Accountability was improved between all actors involved, both from the upper level of authority all the way to the local level, and the County emergency council met more frequently in 2013 than in 2011 for further planning. Also, in 2013 the telecommunications networks were improved to strengthen the communication and cooperation between the involved actors, and The Directorate for Civil Protection organized a seminar after the flood to find possible solutions and discuss the preparation methods for future floods.
The 2015 reports from the Office of the Auditor-General and DSB concluded that the potential for learning more from this sort of event was not fully achieved, and the implementation of all the required measures was not done effectively. The recommendations were partly or temporarily applied, such as funding, where Ringebu received funds after the 2013 flood for rebuilding and preparation, but the project lasted for only two years. As we can see, local authorities are very much dedicated to managing this sort of crisis, but the fragmented Norwegian government in this regard complicates the entire process. This stresses the need for better cooperation between governmental actors at all levels.
- Carina S. Lillestøl and Lise H. Rykkja, Dealing with Natural Disasters: Managing Floods in Norway, Stein Rokkan Centre for Social Studies, Uni Research AS, Bergan, April 2016
- Norway, Initial steps towards the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, Voluntary national review presented at the high-level political forum on sustainable development (HLPF), UN, NEW YORK, JULY 2016 – https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/10692NORWAY%20HLPF%20REPORT%20-%20full%20version.pdf
This media content was created as a part of Nordic level youth project about SDGs and youth media, supported by Norden 0-30 programme and a a partnership between Norsensus Mediaforum (Norway), Awesome People (Sweden) and City of Helsinki (Finland). Read more about the project here!