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Mumbai in danger of coastal surge

Mumbai, with its critical infrastructure on the coastline, is among 50 cities tipped to face floods, reports Reshma Patil.

india Updated: Nov 03, 2006 11:34 IST
Reshma Patil
Reshma Patil

It is a New Orleans connection that Mumbai cannot afford to ignore as it recovers from last year’s 26/7 floods. Mumbai and Kolkata are among 22 cities — including Karachi, New York, Miami, London and St Petersburg — tipped to face increasing risks of coastal surges and flooding as the Earth warms by 3 to 4 degrees from mid-century.

“Even if protected, these cities would lie below sea level with a residual risk of flooding like New Orleans today.’’ This is a warning on how climate change will affect the world, from an extensive new review on the economics of climate change commissioned by the UK Government. And its release this week, after many leaks, sparked a global debate that echoed in the White House.

The report by former World Bank chief economist Sir Nicholas Stern includes a reminder that 22 of the top 50 cities face the risk of major coastal surges. Many cities, like Mumbai, have critical infrastructure like nuclear power stations on their coastlines.

“Rising sea levels will result in tens to hundreds of millions of more people flooded each year with a warming of 3 or 4 degrees Celsius,” the report stated. The Earth has warmed by 0.7 degrees since 1900.

“There will be serious risks and increasing pressures of coastal protection in Bangladesh, Vietnam, small islands in the Pacific and Caribbean and large coastal cities such as Tokyo, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Mumbai, Kolkata, Karachi, Buenos Aires, St Petersburg, New York, Miami and London.”

It is a warning that the 26/7 fact-finding Chitale Committee appointed by the state last year did not miss either, in recommendations to protect low-lying areas from future floods due to rising sea levels.

“Many areas in Mumbai lie in shallow land that is at risk of flooding from any small change in sea level,” Shyam Asolekar, head of the Indian Institute of Technology’s Centre for Environmental Science and Engineering told HT.

First Published: Nov 03, 2006 01:46 IST