Local solutions and strategies for the flood protection of cultural heritage in the Sava River Basin

The SHELTER (Sustainable Historic Environments hoListic reconstruction through Technological Enhancement& community-based Resilience) project aims at developing a data driven and community-based knowledge framework that will bring together the scientific community and heritage managers with the objective of increasing resilience, reducing vulnerability and promoting better and safer reconstruction in historic areas. The project is validated in 5 Open Labs with different heritage typologies, representative of main climatic and environmental challenges in Europe, including the Sava River Basin. The Sava River Basin is a major transboundary catchment of the South-East Europe covering a vast area with peculiar characteristics.

Over the last decades, as a consequence of the effects of climate change, cultural heritage has been impacted by an increasing number of climate related hazards, posing new challenges to conservators and heritage managers. The SHELTER project’s main objective is to establish cross-scale, multidimensional, data-driven and community based operational knowledge framework for heritage-led and conservation-friendly resilience enhancement and sustainable reconstruction of Historic Areas to cope with climate change and natural hazards.

On 15 December 2020, SHELTER partners, notably the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe, the International Sava River Basin Commission, the University of the Basque Country UPV/EHU and TECNALIA organised a co-creation workshop on the Sava River Basin (Albania, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro). This is part of five co-creation workshops being organised respectively in the 5 Open Labs ( Galicia, Dordrecht, Ravenna, Sava River Basin and Seferhisar).

The Sava River Basin has been severely hit by extreme flooding events, affecting hundreds of thousands of people and causing extensive damage, notably to cultural and natural heritage. It is an emblematic case because of its climatic and environmental challenges, as well as its transboundary peculiarity. Thus, the work undertaken through SHELTER in the Sava River Basin bringing together the scientific community and heritage managers by SHELTER is particularly noteworthy.

The co-creation workshop kicked off with an introduction to the project in the context of the Sava River Basin by the International Sava River Basin Commission. With the guidance of the organisers, the participants used an online collaborative whiteboard platform called Miro to brainstorm on local solutions and strategies to protect cultural heritage in the Save River Basin endangered by floods. The participants identified 54 local solutions and strategies: 22 solutions dedicated to prevention; 14 solutions dedicated to preparedness; 8 solutions dedicated to response and 10 solutions dedicated to recovery & building back better.

Finally a survey was conducted of the relative importance of the requirements and criteria for selection of the most suitable solutions through a prioritization methodology. The event closed off with a review of the main results and an outline of the next steps for the SHELTER project.

Interactive stakeholders’ workshops such as this one, where experts in the field of flood management, culture, emergency responders and civil protection, co-create together demonstrate how complex matters can be approached in an interdisciplinary and holistic manner.

Several workshops will be organized in the next two years in the project development phase to exchange on the potential governance tools that can be used in the Sava Open Lab and beyond can bring effective solutions to floods in trans-boundary contexts. Furthermore the project will be fully engaged in the collect data on cultural heritage within the flood hazard areas from the relevant national institutions within the Sava River basin to integrate cultural heritage in DRM policies and to develop a comprehensive regional methodology which also include post disaster needs assessment for cultural heritage. UNESCO will continue to ensure participation of experts from the relevant institutions from the cultural-historical heritage protection sector in this activity and promote trainings for operational use and promotion of new tools and products and for the end users