ICFM – Webinar No.8
Managed Retreat
From managing unavoidable to avoiding unmanageable
April 28, 2022

As global change (climate, urbanization, migrations, land use) causes more frequent and severe floods, humanity faces a stark choice. We can protect ourselves from rising waters and battering storm surges by building defences (such as dikes, sea walls, floodways) or figure out how to live with the new flooding reality, such as by raising homes to stay high and dry above floodwater levels. However, there is a third option that’s increasingly getting attention: “managed retreat” away from the flood-prone areas. Managed retreat is “the purposeful, coordinated movement of people and assets out of harm’s way.” In a world where building dikes and walls for protection has always been the clear preference, the conversation about a managed retreat is just beginning.”

Simply retreating to higher ground in the face of nature’s rage is hardly new. As far back as the 1940s, Gilbert White, known as the “father of floodplain management,” included relocations (or abandonment of vulnerable areas) among his key “adjustments” for reducing risks from floods.

Increasing damages and high recovery costs bring a managed retreat to the forefront of decision-making. Although moving people is not a new concept, managing a retreat presents numerous complex legal, logistical, ethical, political, financial, and architectural challenges. Communities, and community cultures, aren’t easily transported and retained. But all indications are that researchers, policymakers, and the general public will need to confront these challenges with increasing frequency in the coming decades. 

The main objective of the webinar is to offer an exchange of experience related to managed retreat from different parts of the world. The discussion will bring ideas from North America, Europe, India and China.

Webinar Programme


  • Slobodan P. Simonovic
    Water Resources Specialist, Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction, Western University, Canada


  • Never Too Late - A Case for Retreat from Floodplains
    Nirupama Agrawal

    Professor, Disaster & Emergency Management Program, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, York University, Toronto, Canada

  • Dutch ‘Room for the River’ programme
    Jos van Alphen
    Staff member, Delta Programme Commissioner, The Hague, The Netherlands

  • Managed retreat as an adaptation tool – opportunities and concerns
    Sharad K. Jain

    Former Director, National Institute of Hydrology (NIH), India; Visiting Faculty, IIT Roorkee, India

  • New trend of floodplains management -Digital twin basin
    Zhang Xiaolei
    Senior Engineer, China Institute of Water Resources and Hydropower Research, China

Q & A session

Watch the playback here or click the link


Presentations can be accessed here:


Moderator: ZHANG Cheng, Chairperson of the Permanent ICFM Secretariat, IWHR

International Conference on Flood Management (ICFM)
China Institute of Water Resources and Hydropower Research (IWHR)

Permanent Secretariat of ICFM

Technical support
Medcon Conference Service Platform (MEDCON)

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