The floods in Mumbai, Chennai, Kerala and to a lesser extent in Panjim were a fair warning of the dangers of global warming and its economic effect. AJIT JOHN attended a lecture presented by a World Bank Lead Environmental Economist to learn more about it
The flooding in Mumbai and Chennai were just warnings and it would be dangerous to ignore them. This was a rather potent observation made by a lead environmental economist employed at the World Bank. This has an ominous ring when the residents of Panjim were shocked by the floods that brought the city to a standstill as people struggled to come to terms with this new development.
Susmita Dasgupta, Lead Environmental Economist, Development Research Group, Environment and Energy, The World Bank said sea levels have been increasing and will continue to rise even beyond 2100 even if green-house gas emissions were stabilised. Low laying areas would be under threat. The dangers of sea level rise would include the following she said but would not be limited to land loss from the permanent inundation of low-lying coastal areas; intensification of inundation from cyclonic storm surges; loss of critical coastal wetlands, for example mangroves and progressive salinisation of soil and water.
She was speaking at the Goa University on Urban flooding, Vulnerability and Resilience, Lessons from South Asia.
Dasgupta said “Overall, an area of approximately 74,000 square kilometres in the twelve countries would risk permanent inundation by a one-meter sea level rise. A three-meter rise would enlarge the inundated area to 1,78,000 square kilometres – or larger than peninsular Malaysia. Even more sobering is the potential impact of communities. A one-meter rise may displace approximately 37 million people, and the number of vulnerable would increase to 60 million people with a two- meter rise. A three-meter rise can impact 90 million people – nearly equivalent to the population of Vietnam, the fourth most populated country in East Asia.”
To give an idea of the kind of destruction floods can cause can be gauged by the fact that the total damages caused by floods in India, since 1953 till 2017, is Rs 1,09,197 crore, which is as much as 3% of the country's GDP.
Dasgupta said it was important to get a complete idea of the characteristics of the coastal state and it will be important to make location-specific initiatives. The time had come she said to listen to the scientists and develop the relevant action plan. It is important she said to plan for all scenarios because global warming was happening.
Scientists, she said had predicted that the monsoons in this part of the world would become erratic. That however did not mean that there would be more or less rain. The rainfall would be the same. It just meant that it was would be tougher to predict when it would fall thus resulting in dramatic changes for a lot of people. It could affect the farmers’ season and everyone else whose life centred around the farming economy.
It would be no longer possible to work in silos and economists; engineers and other experts would have to learn to collaborate and tackle the challenges of global warming.