Flooding alert: Mumbai’s first line of defence is its mangroves, says environment expertUpdated: Oct 31, 2019, 00:30 IST
Hindustan Times spoke to Anjal Prakash, coordinating lead author, United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate (SROCC) and associate professor, regional water studies, TERI School of Advanced Studies about the recent report by Climate Central that showed the possibility of large scale inundation across Mumbai Metropolitan Region by 2050.
Are the findings of the latest Climate Central report accurate for India and coastal cities like Mumbai?
This study reaffirms the IPCC report that rise in sea levels is going to be the new normal for coastal cities in India, including Mumbai. Frequency of extreme weather events such as cyclones and extremely heavy rain are going to be much higher under the current emission scenario. As science advances, we are able to identify data points clearly. This paper does exactly that with location specific view of what is going to happen to coastal cities by 2050.
What is the major threat for Mumbai and what needs to be done protect the city?
Mumbai needs to protect its first line of defence and protectors – mangroves, salt pans, wetlands and forests acting as natural sponges. All these zones are being reclaimed and the brunt is borne across the city. If this continues then probable inundation will be sooner than 2050. Unless we are taking measures to protect our natural environment, we are going to have serious issues in coming years.
Reports have reiterated the possibility of coastal cities being submerged. Are these reports making any difference in current planning?
These reports are more than alarm bells and what they predict is a ticking time bomb for coastal cities. Unfortunately, this knowledge is not leading to any planning and there is no action or detailed policy to safeguard the future. Urban and environmental planning has to go hand in hand. The major solution is to have climate resilient infrastructure, especially enhancing Mumbai’s drainage capacity. An example of this is Netherlands, which has managed to protect its coastal infrastructure in times of crisis.
What is your assessment of rising sea levels and how quickly is it expected accelerate?
While sea level has risen globally around 15cm during the 20th century, it is currently rising more than twice as fast – 3.6 mm per year and accelerating further. It would reach around 30-60cm by 2100 even if the greenhouse gas emissions are sharply reduced and global warming is limited to well below 2 degree Celsius. In the event of high greenhouse gas emissions, it would rise to 60-110 cm. Coastal cities like Mumbai will experience high salinity ingress and huge economic losses directly impact the domestic water sector and food production.