France

Case study description

Cities involved: Vitry-sur-Seine
Affected Population: 26 000 inhabitants
Last flooding episodes: 2016

Vitry-sur-Seine is a commune located 3 km south of Paris. It is confronted to flooding by overflowing of the Seine River but also by runoff. In reference to the historic flood of 1910, the flood prone area represents 1/3 of its territory. 26,000 people are living in this flood prone area as well as industrial companies (including classified Seveso establishments). Since 2006, the Municipality is preparing to face a disaster scenario. A plan has been elaborated covering the commune area and providing, in case of flood, a warning system and the evacuation the exposed population as well as its relocation. The municipality developed information campaigns towards institutions, of which it is responsible for. Despite his efforts, the municipality emphasizes a deficit of culture of risk within the exposed populations as well as a lack of interest.

The case study therefore provides an interesting opportunity to assess how different flood risk management approaches interact and play out in terms of community resilience.

Capacity assessment

The assessment of the communities’ capacities to prepare, cope with and recover from flood cannot be separated from the general FRM system, and the structure of the society itself. In the French case, despite the efforts to change the current status quo, the widespread idea that “it is the government job to protect the population” prevents any community involvement coming from the grassroots to arise. The lack of recurrent flood events in the area also reinforces the perception that a flood will hardly happen, this idea changed with the May-June 2016 events, but still population is not ready to take proactive actions to prepare for flood.

Thus the French case presents a clear division between institutional actors and rooted communities; this is because its political organization is structured on a representative basis. Capacities such as knowledge, motivation, networks and finance are strengthening but not in direct relation to the communities and their needs.  The municipality plays the role of the intermediary but still this creates an important gap with the population which is not advancing at the same pace than institutional actors.

Pilot Actions

Selection

Two main weaknesses have been identified regarding social and civic capacities of the assessed area:

– A one way relation between local authorities and citizens. Some links exist between city council and people but they are orientated: city council provides information through regulatory tools (DIRCRIM[1], flood marks), some mainstream exhibitions, a specific city walk, some neighbourhood council meetings, which citizen are receiving. There is currently no incitation for the people to become actors.

– Although some people are motivated and some networks working, people do not always feel that they have legitimacy for (or the responsibility to) take actions in flood risk management. Those citizens are not integrated in the thinking at the global or regional scale (PAPI, SEQUANA exercise, institutional networks…)

Based on this background, the participatory workshop has been prepared aiming at achieving the following objectives:

– To create one or more communities of citizen interested in getting involved in flood risk prevention for the community

– To strengthen the link between the city council (and the institutional actors in general) and the citizens

 

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[1] DICRIM stands for Document d’Information Communale sur les Risques Majeurs (French: Backgrounder Municipal Major Hazards)

Description

The workshop has been held the 25 February at the Maison des projets of Vitry-sur- Seine. It was organised by the CEPRI, with the support of the Lab’URBA. The CEPRI was in charge of the animation of the workshop with some interventions from the Lab’URBA and Vitry sur Seine representatives. Vitry citizens from the Port à l’Anglais and La Ferme districts have been contacted by phone (around 250 persons) to propose them to participate to the workshop. 20 of them declare they will come and 17 they will maybe come. Finally only 7 inhabitants of the flood prone areas of Vitry came. So a complementary survey with interested people will be organized by beginning of May.

The workshop was organised in 5 main parts:

– The first one was a work to do in small groups. People received a set of around 30 pictures representing various aspects of floods and were asked to select the 3 closer from their flood risk perception and the one which was, according to them the less representative of flood, according to their own opinion. This allow the participants to express their own flood risk perception.

– The second was a presentation of flood risk in Vitry and in the Ile de France area, taking in consideration the previously expressed risk perception.

– The third brought the people to perceive the threat that flood represents in order to raise willingness to act and get involved, by making them identified (in small groups) the impacts a major flood have at different scales of the territory.

– Then an open discussion on how to act at personal level to face flood allows to make the people available to discuss the way they wanted to involve themselves in flood risk management.

– The last part was dedicated to discussion of the actions people wanted to implement and to think about the conditions to implement them.