Published on The Water Blog

Getting ahead of the wave: How World Bank RAS programs help Romania get one step ahead of flood risks and promote integrated water management

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Danube Delta in December. Photo Credit: Thomas Hackl. Danube Delta in December. Photo Credit: Thomas Hackl.

Strengthening water resource and disaster risk management capabilities is a mighty endeavor that requires ample financing, resilient infrastructure, well trained experts and political willpower. But brick and mortar projects aren’t the only solution – far from it. In fact, advisory, collaborative and analytical work can help countries better prepare for future flood risks while enhancing their water resources planning and management capacities. 

This is where the World Bank’s Reimbursable Advisory Services (RAS) come into the equation. RAS programs are offered to clients in middle and high-income countries - particularly in the Europe and Central Asia (ECA) region - and include anything from policy advice, support for strategy formulation, and analytical and diagnostic work, to impact evaluation and implementation. By the end of 2019, the World Bank had delivered over 50 advisory services in Romania and worked with over thirty public institutions on numerous issues including education, social inclusion and poverty reduction, regional development, public administration improvements (including the prioritization of public investments and procurement), strategic planning and service delivery, climate change and the digital agenda. 

For Romania’s Ministry of Environment, Waters and Forests, this is manifested in the preparation of a new methodological framework - the Flood Hazard and Risk Maps (FHRM) and the Flood Risk Management Plans (FRMP).  The June 2018 Water Diagnostic Report constitutes a compelling milestone that built the necessary trust among the Romanian Water Authorities, which lead to the signature of one of the biggest RAS programs in the history of the Bank. Floods cost Romania’s economy roughly 140 million euros annually, with some counties experiencing annual economic losses that exceed 4 percent of local GDP. Moreover, Romania’s flood protection infrastructure is impacted by a lack of resources for proper operation and maintenance, enduring land use issues and an underfunded national water administration, thus making it hard to properly manage flood risks.  

But how exactly do RAS programs help piece together the water resource management puzzle? By facilitating the development of a new methodological framework, FHRMs and FRMPs, RAS programs bring international best practices and examples, thus helping Romania address floods, boost water sector capacities and improve integrated water resources management. 

Seven specific priority actions were identified that, if implemented, could help reduce flooding risks in Romania: the consideration of climate change impacts in FHRMs and FRMPs; addressing the risk of pluvial floods, flash floods, dike breaches and coastal flooding by using two different levels for methodology implementation; improving flood damage and loss assessments resulting in a quantitative method for flood risk ; identifying and implementing green infrastructure and nature-based solutions for flood risk management; facilitating active stakeholder engagement and inter-institutional collaboration in different sectors; developing Programs of Measures that are aligned with flood risk management objectives; and close coordination with the Water Framework Directive and the development of River Basin Management Plans (RBMPs). 

This in turn will support Romania in increasing its resilience against the numerous environmental disasters that could hit months or years from now. It would also contribute to the sustainable management of water resources in the long run, thus setting a new pace and standard for such a valuable ‘commodity.’ The inherent value in this type of assistance cannot be underestimated, as it allowed the government to more readily implement the EU Floods Directive and prevent the opening of infringement procedures.  

Utilizing World Bank RAS programs in preparation for the next disaster and taking stock of the knowledge gained in countries where they’ve already been implemented can also allow governments worldwide to strengthen the resilience of their water resource management sectors.  

By the end of July, a set of flexible tools will be provided to the Romanian government, which can be easily adapted to any country of the world. This new methodological framework and the implementation of the FHRM and FRMP could bring the best practices from Europe to other countries of the world.  

At the end of the day, floods can’t always be stopped fully in their tracks. But governments can certainly be prepared for so that environmental, health, social and financial fallouts are limited. By utilizing RAS programs offered by the World Bank, Romania chose to get a step or two ahead of the next flood-catalyzing disaster. In the end, its citizens will benefit from these RAS programs, which can serve as a model for other countries actively looking for ways to improve the resilience of their water sectors in the ECA region and beyond. 


Amparo Samper Hiraldo

Senior Water Resources Management Specialist

Zhimin Mao

Water Resources Management Specialist

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