Objectives, Principles and Strategy of the IRMA Programme

It is generally accepted that it is insufficient to draft a programme that tackles high water problems only in the most sensitive areas. All areas where people can influence high water events must be included. While for the main part, floods have always occurred due to natural causes, human activities can partly control this process.

The main objective of the IRMA programme is:

To prevent damage caused by floods for all living creatures in and important functions of the catchment area of the rivers, and therefore create a balance between the activities of the population in the areas, the socio-economic developments and sustainable management of the natural resource water.

This main objective combines three important elements, all of which are stressed by the European Commission:

  • water management
  • spatial planning
  • damage prevention

These elements must be transformed into a new policy and strategy. The following principles must therefore be taken into account:

  • retain water: water should be retained in the catchment areas as much as possible;
  • give space to rivers: rivers should have space to discharge and high-water should have the opportunity to flow into retention areas and flood plains;
  • raise awareness: awareness of high water must be raised, knowledge must be improved, legislation drafted and favourable conditions created.

Spatial planning, water management and risk management must be integrated into one policy concept in order to prevent flood damage: in other words, integrated water management. Spatial planning must also contribute to the implementation of these principles.

A common strategy for all policies in the catchment area has been elaborated which comprises the following five principles:

1. Integrated and common approach:

    A permanent improvement in high water policies and protection can only be achieved through integrated action in the fields of water management, spatial planning, economy, nature protection and agriculture. A common approach regarding the catchment area is a prerequisite for the success of the strategies and the action plans.

2. Water:

    Water is an integral part of the use of space and thus must be taken into account in all fields related to spatial planning.

3. Water retention:

    It is possible to retain water by indicating areas to be used for the infiltration of precipitation in rural and populated areas. The maintenance and renaturalisation of tributaries and wooded floodplains is another solution.

4. Space for rivers:

    The overflow capacity and enlargement potential of the Rhine, the Meuse and their tributaries at high water should be maintained and extended. There must be room to facilitate a slow, safe discharge of water.

5. Information campaigns:

    Increase public knowledge about the dangers of high water.

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