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Monday, February 6, 2023

Court of Auditors criticized the lack of protection against natural hazards

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There are 1500 torrent communities in Austria. Since the introduction of the forest law, i.e. for almost half a century, they have been obliged to inspect their torrents and tributaries at least once a year. Wood or other objects that impede the flow of water must be removed.

However, not all congregations lived up to this obligation. In its report “Torrent and Avalanche Control in Upper Austria and Styria” published on Friday, the Court of Auditors shows there is a need for improvement in protection against natural hazards. The period from 2015 to 2020 was examined. In Upper Austria, the districts of Vöcklabruck and Gmunden are particularly affected.

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The length of the streams to be controlled is enormous: In the 41 municipalities of the Upper Austria West regional construction management, it was a total of 1980 kilometers. “It would be essential to regularly visit torrents in order to keep drainage areas free and to be able to initiate maintenance measures in good time,” says the Court of Auditors’ report.

Only half in good condition

Less than half of the torrent and avalanche control structures in the Upper Austria West regional construction office were in a very good or good state of preservation. Two percent of the buildings were classified as non-functional. The Court of Auditors recommends linking the financing of protective measures from federal funds to the demonstrable fulfillment of the tasks prescribed by the Forest Act by the municipalities.

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As for further recommendations, there was a demand for standardization of the Internet-based representation of danger zones. One possibility would be a nationwide information platform. Regulations would have to be worked out together with the federal states that explicitly exclude new buildings in red danger zones according to the Forest Act. In principle, projects would only be approved if they were classified as economical on the basis of cost-benefit studies. The federal funds for torrent and avalanche control came largely from the disaster fund and increased from 80 million euros (2015) to 101 million euros (2020).

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