Learning together from the past to reviewing the state of alert on Flood Risk and anticipatory actions in Alexandria

A two day work shop on “Analysing flood risk in Alexandria” was conducted on 1st and 2nd Jan 2019 for the staff from Alexandria Governorate, Alexandria Sanitation and Drainage Company (ASDCO), Alexandria University and Alexandria Business Association (ABA). This two day workshop is a part of workshop series on “Anticipatory Flood risk Analysis, Planning and Management.  The workshop series was mooted at the behest of His Excellency Dr. Abd El Aziz Konsawa, the Governor of Alexandria, in order to increase the level of awareness and common understanding among the staff who are dealing with flood related issues in Alexandria. This workshop was organised by AFMA project as a part of engagement of stakeholders during Work package 2 (Activity 2.3.3) and was facilitated by Dr. Mohanasundar Radhakrishnan from IHE-Delft, also the project coordinator of AFMA.  The workshop was conducted in the training facilities in the Eastern Treatment plant of ASDCO and was organised by HCWW, the National Coordinator of AFMA. Dr. Mohamed Hasan Khalil briefed the participants about the objectives and activites of AFMA in the coming years.

The workshop was step up in an active learning format. On the first day of the workshop all the 30 participants were introduced to the concept of cities and various elements of cities so that they understand that a city in its complete sense is a (i) network of physical infrastructure; (ii) economic system; (iii) institutional process; (iv) social system; and (v) symbol of collective unity or strength. The participants were divided into five groups and were asked to draw the mental map of the city. This exercise lead to brainstorming about the current state of the city, future visions, aspirations of people, action plans to achieve the vision, the challenges as well as opportunities in implementing the actions. The exercise also brought out the various perspectives of individuals and the professional groups in the workshop about what constitutes a city and how a city functions.  

Also the workshop participants witnessed the launch of the rapid action team, a team of 103 men recruited and trained in three weeks, to quickly respond and attend the drainage related issues in Alexandria.

Also in the beginning of the workshop most of the participants had the perception that infrastructure is physical in nature. With some help and facilitation the participants themselves discovered that infrastructure goes beyond physical systems and comprise local governance issues, cuts across institutions from Supranational to local level, economics and more importantly the aspirations of people who make and use the infrastructure. The participants were introduced to “Systems Thinking”, a city as a whole is a system and comprises a number of sub-systems such as water system, sewerage system, electrical system, communication systems, transportation systems that are independent but interconnected.  The importance of mapping the connection and bring out the synergies between the various systems and actions were demonstrated using a case study from the city of Pune in India. The participants learned about the five steps involved in bringing out the synergies in urban context: (i) understanding the local urban context – needs and preferences; (ii) collate existing and proposed projects; (iii) Strength, weakness, opportunities and threat analysis (SWOT); (iv) identification of bottlenecks and collaboration;  and (v) mapping relationships and synergies. The first day ended with a common understanding that people and the connection between the systems are important.

On the second day of the workshop the participants were guided on a discussion regarding the past flooding incidents in Alexandria. The participants recalled three major flooding incidents one each in the years 1964, 1991 and 2015. Eng. Manal and Eng. Amira presented about the actions taken by ASDCO to  avoid flooding in Alexandria and the early warning systems that are now being operationalised. The discussion were mostly about the 2015 floods as most them had experience it and was about: the timing of rains; when the staff of drainage company and the residents realised that rain was turning in a flooding event (40 minutes from the star of rain); reports about flooding in local media (2 hours); reports in national media (4 hours); and, involvement of army and President in flood relief works (8 hours).  The participants were then asked to discuss about the various problems encountered during flooding and measures to minimise, overcome or adopt to flooding.

Upon collating the measures the participants performed the SWOT analysis of these measures. Relationship mapping between three of these measures such as: separating sewerage system from drainage systems; early warning systems; and, enabling communication between various agencies were carried out, so that participants could understand how to do relationship mapping, find out bottlenecks and possible area of collaboration.  

The key take home messages of the two day workshop, also as understood from the feedback, are as follows:

  • Pay attention to
    • the connection between systems
    • the connections between people and the systems
  • Connections and people are the key in defining the problem (probably the theme of next work shop – problem definition)