VISFRIM - Citizens' Observatory


On 18th November 2020 an online workshop about the Citizens' Observatory on flood risk management was jointly organized by staff from the H2020 WeObserve project ( and the VISFRIM project. In detail the WeObserve project aims to mainstream Citizens’ Observatories for environmental management, including by holding Roadshow events throughout Europe; whereas the VISFRIM project aims at improving flood risk management in cross-border river basins, including via the implementation of a Citizen Observatory (CO).

This workshop brought together more than 50 people from Italy and Slovenia: local authorities, regional/national policy makers, scientists and experts. In detail the online workshop allowed participants to learn about the basic principles of COs, providing with hands-on experience of citizen science and Citizens’ Observatories and demonstrating how decision makers can exploit information provided by citizens. Specifically Eastern Alps River Basin District, coordinator of the VISFRIM project and partner in the WeObserve project, showcased how this kind of approach is effectively of support in the management of the Brenta-Bacchiglione river. Based on such experience, participants discussed the potential of Citizens’ Observatories in the context of flood risk mitigation. Indeed a similar approach is expected to permit the achievement of several benefits: first of all, the information originating from citizens will contribute to integrate the existing data set, deriving only from static in-situ monitoring networks, that are not capable to describe accurately the status of the water cycle during rare and excessive events, such as floods. In fact citizens will be allowed to send geo-referenced reports trough mobile app, containing text and images, by changing location with time. In this way more reliable flood analysis are expected to be performed by technicians. In addition public awareness and preparedness for flood events are estimated to increase, determining consequently an important reduction on the vulnerability to floods: engaged people will recognize flooding as part of their environment and will be aware of being at risk, which means that they know about it and take it into account appropriately when acting. Last but not least citizens will not be only consumers of information services at the very end of the information chain, as traditionally considered, because they will have now an active role for the community with regards to understanding the environment: a shift from the traditional one-way communication paradigm towards a two-way communication model. Their reports will be indeed collected inside web platforms, where decision-makers could visualize them to organize reactions, if needed. The continuous feedback, that citizens receive on the basis of their own sensing activities, will increase the potential that citizens themselves will be interested and willing to participate in water governance processes and decision making.

All this is in line with the EU Directive on Public Participation regarding the environment (and with the EU Water Framework Directive 2000/60/EC, as well the EU Floods Directive 2007/60/EC) which states that “effective public participation in the taking of decisions enables the public to express, and the decision-maker to take account of opinions and concerns which may be relevant to those decisions, thereby increasing the accountability and transparency of the decision-making process and contributing to public awareness of environmental issues and support for the decisions taken” (Directive 2003/35/EC). In addition the development of information and communication technologies, such as the ones planned trough the implementation of a Citizens’ Observatory, meets one of the cross-cutting themes identified in the Interreg V-A Italy – Slovenia Programme 2014-2020.

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