Letter: A tide of cash for flood damage

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The Independent Online
Sir: The current round of flooding poses questions as to what can be done. Warnings are useful, if well targeted, and sandbags and pumps are a good last resort. Care for the elderly, the less well off, the sick and those evacuated must be an immediate priority, since our research over 20 years shows that they are the worst affected by floods in their homes.

But a longer term strategy must involve comprehensive catchment management and better investment decisions. Our results show that only about half what the public really loses in floods is counted as benefits: none of the important 'intangibles', such as evacuation impacts and adverse health effects, is yet included.

Fundamental also is a revision downwards of the 6 per cent Treasury Discount Rate, which means that investment in flood defences is made only when the benefits in terms of flood damage avoided exceed the costs by 6 per cent per annum, approximately double the historic rate of return on private sector investment.

The Government's expectation of a return from its investment in keeping people dry of double that from private capital, and triple the rate of inflation, is a major reason why we are now seeing the extent of flood damage being suffered today.

Yours faithfully,

E. C. PENNING-ROWSELL

Flood Hazard Research Centre

Middlesex University

Enfield

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