Urban, economic and infrastructure systems have been developed in the river valleys of SEE, just like in other parts of the world. Local river engineering activities began very early, as people needed to use water resources, protect themselves from floods, and move along or across rivers. River engineering and flood protection became more and more complex over time, as increasingly stringent criteria were set for the protection of a growing number of people and continually increasing value of assets in flood-prone areas.
Today, the expression “river engineering” means the process of undertaking planned activities to alter a river course, riverbed characteristics or the flow regime, in order to systematically reduce damages caused by floods and riverbank erosion; create conditions for use of rivers for navigation, water supply, hydropower generation, irrigation, recreation and other needs; and protect and promote river and riparian environments. Planning of river engineering measures now tends to be integrated, sustainable and multidisciplinary, taking into account the physical characteristics of the river (like its morphology, hydrology, hydraulics, and sediment transport), and considering also environmental and social issues.
The particularity of river engineering, as a hydrotechnical discipline, is that the completion of works is generally followed by nature’s response, which is difficult and often impossible to fully predict. A disturbance of the natural river regime, either by works in the riverbed or alteration of the water and sediment regime, results in subsequent short- or long-term morphological processes that lead to a new equilibrium state.
This lecture will include a number of examples of past river engineering projects in Serbia, and reveal their benefits and faults. Hopefully, these experiences will help new generations of engineers when they deal with new “development schemes” that might interfere with the remaining natural rivers in SEE.