SHELTER holds promise for the future of cultural heritage protection

The First Stakeholder Workshop within the EU-Horizon 2020 project: Sustainable Historic Environments hoListic reconstruction through Technological Enhancement and community based Resilience (SHELTER) was held in Zagreb, Croatia, on 2 October 2019. Organized by the International Sava River Basin Commission in cooperation with UNESCO within SHELTER demo site in the Sava River basin, in attendance were cultural heritage experts, flood management operators and emergency responders from the Sava River basin, and major stakeholders of the beneficiary countries.

Over the last decades, the effects of climate change on cultural heritage have become even more obvious, with an increasing number of climate related hazards causing ever-more substantial damages. UNESCO joined the SHELTER consortium, its mission being, to enhance resilience and understanding of the crucial elements that affect the climate and environment around us.

In the last years the Western Balkans have shown a noticeable change in the traditional climatic patterns, manifesting extreme climatic phenomena that severely hit the Sava area with a sequence of water extremes, notably flooding and drought events, causing extensive damage, both human and material.

In 2017 in the framework of the H2020 project I-REACT, UNESCO through its Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe and the International Sava River Basin Commission, organised a training workshop on “Governance and Technology for Flood Risk Reduction: Linking early warning to emergency management in the Sava River basin” in Zagreb.

Representatives of Civil Protection departments, water management and hydro-meteorological services from Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, and Albania, tested different tools and possible strategies. The results published by UNESCO and the International Sava River Basin Commission (ISRBC) in May form the basis for their joint collaboration in the area of floods and droughts.

Overall, the objective of SHELTER 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.

It will contribute to enhancing resilience and reducing vulnerability of historic areas to climate change and other natural hazards, also accounting for their synergistic impact; and, improving reconstruction and economic and social recovery of historic areas by local authorities and communities through the use of new knowledge and tools.

The Sava river basin severely hit by extreme flooding in the past ten years is one of the case studies - Open Labs - that will validate all developments for the project against flood hazard worsened by climate change, in particular due to the increase of intense precipitation.
Specific objectives of the workshop embraced a number of purposes:

First, to present the SHELTER project, discuss its expected outcomes and collect inputs from the stakeholders regarding the objectives, criteria, indicators and data & information that should be included in the project implementation.

Secondly, to discuss the possible process and settings for stakeholders participating in the project implementation; in addition, provide input that will assist to define the level and means of participation for the different stakeholders.

Third, to raise awareness and understanding among relevant stakeholders at a regional and transboundary level, especially those from cultural heritage authorities, of the potentialities offered by the common use of integrated systems and tools for monitoring, forecasting, alerting and reporting in the entire flood risk management cycle.

Finally, to set the ground for a coordination on basin-wide level and an exchange of good practices of cooperation of the Sava River basin countries for flood awareness and mitigation measures on impact on cultural-historical heritage.

“Climate change has broad implications for the region. It also has very specific consequences for cultural heritage and specifically built heritage.”, remarked Wally Merotto, Coordination Officer of the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe. “The work done through the workshop will be key to bringing together cultural heritage experts, flood management operators and emergency responders from the Sava River basin and major stakeholders of the beneficiary countries in consultation with the ISRBC.”

An understanding of the direct and indirect impacts of climate change on historic sites and buildings is one of the first steps. Participants highlighted flood risk reduction measures related to the cultural and historical heritage in place at a country basis.

Great emphasis was put on inter/intra coordination and level communication flows, preparedness, monitoring, early warning system and response to flood risk on the cultural and historical heritage. These were disclosed in the introductive plenary sessions for mutual knowledge and understanding.

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 821282. Tecnalia Research & Innovation (Spain) is coordinating SHELTER and the consortium is composed of 23 participants from Europe, including UNESCO.

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