Rights, Powers and Obligations

For an integrated approach to flood management to become a reality, the institutions and individuals involved must have not only the necessary rights for enforcement, but also the powers to do so. However, the appropriate obligations must also be imposed upon them so that they are accountable for their actions or inaction. It is essential that rights are associated with correlative powers and procedures for enforcement. Without it, rights are not enforceable and consequently worth little. The responsibilities and duties of institutions and individuals should be set out, and the details of the relevant functions performed by each, so that the individual roles are well defined. The establishment of clear procedures and standards adds both transparency and predictability.

The range of issues for which rights, powers and obligations have to be defined, is as wide as the number of major stakeholders involved.

A well-known example is the expropriation of private land for flood defence work or to serve for flood detention. In order to guarantee equity and prevent landuse conflicts it is necessary to set out legal instructions for following questions: What are the rights and powers of the expropriating authority? What kind of compensation claims can be made by the land owner? How is the amount of compensation calculated? etc.

Another example refers to the issuing of flood warnings. Who exactly is responsible for it? Is the issuing of warnings a right or an obligation? And who is accountable in situations where flood warnings have been issued needlessly or, more importantly, where they have not been issued? The latter question is usually established in jurisprudence on a case by case basis taking into consideration existing limits of predicting natural phenomena such as floods.

 


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