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Montreal unveils plan to deal with flooding in face of worsening rainstorms

Click to play video: 'Montreal unveils new flooding action plan on second day of Climate Summit'
Montreal unveils new flooding action plan on second day of Climate Summit
WATCH: The City of Montreal has released its latest action plan to prepare for floods since intense rainfalls are becoming more frequent. It includes measures to support property owners to adapt their buildings to evolving construction regulations. As Global's Phil Carpenter explains, the challenge lies in finding the funds – May 8, 2024

With more frequent intense rainfall expected during the summers causing more rain-induced flooding, the City of Montreal has unveiled a new action plan they say will help the city and residents adapt.

It has three areas of focus.

“First one is we need to subsidize the residents that are flooded and that want to protect their homes,” explains Maja Vodanovic, borough mayor for Lachine, and the city’s executive member responsible for waterworks.

She says the idea is to improve the current Renoplex programme to now include work to protect the property from flooding, and to make it easier for residents to get the subsidies.

The second item on the plan is to change regulations to have any new building meet certain standards, especially in flood-prone areas.

“Not to put apartments in a basement, not to put driveways with a big slope (down),” Vodanovic points out.

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The third element: finding ways to make streets and pavements more water absorbent, with things like sponge parks and sidewalks since the sewers can’t handle all the water. Vodanovic says there are three sponge parks already and 30 more planned.

Click to play video: 'Montreal to invest in sponge infrastructure to mitigate impact of flooding'
Montreal to invest in sponge infrastructure to mitigate impact of flooding

Dr. Alexandra Lesnikowski, assistant professor in the Department of Geography, Planning, and Environment at Concordia University, notes that urban centres like Montreal face a number of challenges when it comes to flood risk.

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“First of all, we’re a very old city,” she points out. “A lot of our infrastructure is aging and it just can’t keep up with the volume of rainfall.”

Cities are learning from each other. The mayor for New Orleans, Latoya Cantrell, shared lessons learned in that city during the Montreal Climate Summit Wednesday. That city has had its share of floods and Cantrell argues that residents have a huge role to play.

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“So it’s not just about what government can do on government property, but it’s also what the public can do, residents can do, on their property,” she told Global News.

Dr. Susan Gaskin, a professor in the department of engineering at McGill University likes the city’s plan but thinks authorities could have gone further. For example, to do what’s being considered in Toronto.

“They were looking into implementing a tax on impervious areas,” she says, “and this is something that’s being done in Germany.

The charge would be based on the amount of surface on the property that does not absorb water, like a paved driveway. Gaskin also believes Montreal suburbs have too much paved surface and thinks Montreal could’ve also addressed that in the plan released Wednesday.

“So we can also think about redesigning our suburbs so that we have more grass, more permeable surfaces,” she argues.

Lesnikowski admits that the changes that are needed will need a great deal of money, but stresses that the price of inaction will be worse. Another thing she thinks is important to consider is “how (governments) are prioritizing social groups that may be particularly vulnerable.”

She believes much of the changes will need to happen not just over the next decade but over the next generation, so authorities should be planning with that in mind.

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