Recent hydro-geological events in Italy, such as floods and landslides, have increased public awareness of the link between climate change and the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events. The EU Floods Directive requires Member States to produce flood risk maps for all watercourses and coastlines and to take adequate and coordinated measures to reduce flood risks. Specific recommendations were included in the Guidelines on local adaptation to climate change for water management and natural hazards in the Alps (Alpine Convention, 2014).The Italian National Adaptation Strategy to Climate Change that was adopted in 2015 identifies Alpine regions as highly vulnerable: special attention must be paid to the management of water resources in these areas. Medium-to-long term strategies and adaptation measures for mountain areas must be developed to increase climate change resilience. The complexity of future risk flood management scenarios suggests they must be accompanied by a communication strategy to allow the different actors and stakeholders to be better able to face the challenges.
The LIFE FRANCA project aimed to support the anticipation and awareness of flood risk, by identifying shortcomings and developing communication strategies on flood risk in selected areas of the Alps specifically in the Autonomous Province of Trento. The management of emergencies and changing attitudes to flood risk, to ensure acceptance of the necessary management measures, were a particular focus. Specific objectives were: to improve communications on flood risks, by supporting both providers of information (through training for public bodies) and those who receive the information (through education and awareness raising of different stakeholder groups); to involve communities and stakeholders and encourage habits that can minimise the risks in a given territory; to develop an attitude of co-responsibility between public and private actors when it comes to undertaking actions; and to produce guidelines on communicating and anticipating flood risk.
LIFE FRANCA increased the resilience of communities in Alpine regions facing climate change-related risk, by raising awareness of flood risk through better communication between administrators and citizens, by performing exercises with both, and by organising dissemination and educational activities for citizens and students. The project explored new approaches to communicating climate change risks that increased the awareness of multiple stakeholders. This communication and participation strategy was suited to the needs and responsibilities of the different stakeholders. The project developed an "anticipatory" flood risk management model, in line with EU policies, which refers to the need to develop processes with which individuals and institutions can cooperate to satisfy common interests and reconcile conflicting ones. For this reason, the LIFE FRANCA team initiated a complex action to prepare the population to live with natural dangers, in particular flood events, based on a participatory process between citizens, specialists and decision-makers. The aim was to develop a widespread sense of public and private co-responsibility.
Participatory processes are seen as an effective way of strengthening trust in institutions and the resilience of communities. The projects new anticipation approach proved to be particularly useful in preparing communities for the conditions envisaged by climate models, which predict an increase in the frequency and/or intensity of flood events. Such natural changes create uncertainty in society. Therefore, when developing effective policies it is necessary to take social changes into consideration together with natural hazards. Project actions also fostered dialogue between professionals from different disciplines.
The LIFE FRANCA website was presented by EASME as an example of good practice, and the FRANCA GEOPORTAL of floods and landslides events at the regional scale was adopted as the official digital interface between the public and the agency of Trentino in charge of hydro-geological risk prevention and alert. In addition, the project reached 79 831 citizens at public events (e.g. exhibitions, science cafs); 8 771 students at educational activities (e.g. workshops, guided tours); and conducted 2 011 interviews with the population on the perception of flood risk. A total of 16 526 online interactions were noted during the project (e.g. website, portal, videos, reports, social media followers). The project team trained 505 professionals (e.g. journalists, teachers) and organised 54 future-exercises (with 500 focus group participants in 3 study areas).
LIFE FRANCA supported the implementation of the EU Floods Directive and the Italian National Strategy for Adapting to Climate Change, along with two UN Sustainable Development Goals (11 Sustainable cities and communities and 13 Climate action). The interaction with the Government of Trentino demonstrated the need to involve elected representatives in the development of risk management and risk prevention, particularly in the light of some catastrophic events that occurred in the area during the project, which highlighted the vulnerability and geo-hydrologic fragility of the alpine or sub-alpine territory. Another important finding was to do with the personal legal liability of mayors who are in charge of communicating emergencies and coordinating intervention. In the long-term, more careful management with the participation of citizens will result in reduced damages and costs due to natural disasters. Socio-economic benefits are also expected as a result of the projects flood risk maps for the three study areas (already integrated with existing maps of other areas of Trentino); the flood data archive and literature review on flood risk communication; the flood risk portal (www.bacinimontani.provincia.tn.it); the "app for personal devices" based on a database of field observations; guidelines on flood risk communication and anticipation; training of students (in the academic programmes of UNITN); training of technicians; and the methodology of participatory scenario building.
Further information on the project can be found in the project's layman report and After-LIFE Communication Plan (see "Read more" section).