Contextual Background

Legal reform with regard to flood management will undoubtedly be required in many countries, but individual circumstances in each will be different. The contextual background includes a brief overview of flood issues as well as the overall legal and political environment within the country.

Flood issues

The analysis of a country’s flood situation is an essential first step if a case is to be made for the reform of existing legal arrangements. An indicative set of data and information may include the following.

Environmental (in particular hydrometeorological and geomorphologic):

  • Climatic conditions: rainfall patterns, temperature, evaporation, radiation, snowmelt, occurrence of permafrost and ice (jams) in drainage system;
  • Records of past floods: magnitude (hydrograph), frequency and type of floods, sediment loads, inundated area and inundation depths;
  • Future flood scenarios: flood hazard maps under different climatic and socio-economic development scenarios (if available).


  • Land use patterns, in particular urbanization, deforestation and agricultural practice;
  • Number of people affected by floods;
  • Demographic trends, population densities in flood-prone areas in the past and in projected models;
  • Warning lead times in past flood events and disaster response;
  • Vulnerability of population at flood risk including future risk projection due to climate change (if available).


  • Economic significance of flood plains (significance for food production and livelihood provision including fisheries and industry, for infrastructure development such as transport links);
  • Economic impacts of past floods on the various sectors, such as agriculture, industry, households and livelihoods, hydropower, navigation and insurance;
  • Effectiveness of the existing flood management interventions (structural and non-structural).
  • Geophysical conditions: morphology and conveyance of drainage system, soil types, soil moisture;


Legal-political environment

The form and structure of government and its international obligations will have a bearing on the way the legal and institutional reform is carried out. The analysis of the legal–political environment should include the following:

  • The system of government (e.g. republic, constitutional monarchy, revolutionary);
  • The branches of government and their interrelationships (e.g. executive, legislature, judiciary);
  • The degree of civic participation in government (e.g. degree of local and national democracy);
  • The structure of government, including the national and local levels (e.g. federal, centralized, strong regions);
  • The type of legal system applicable (e.g. civil law, common law, Islamic, customary); there may be a number of different types of systems applicable to separate aspects of flood management (e.g. water rights may be governed by customary systems, but the overall national context may be Islamic or broadly civilian);
  • The type of economy (e.g. free-market, centrally administered);
  • Membership in international organizations;
  • Monist or dualist (i.e. are international obligations automatically incorporated into national law or not).

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