'Cities must adapt to climate change to prevent flooding'
Unprecedented floods in Bangladesh followed by Assam floods
NEW DELHI: Unprecedented floods in Bangladesh followed by Assam floods, extremely heavy rain in Madhya Pradesh, parts of Rajasthan and Bengaluru in India, and the Pakistan deluge. Climate experts say all calamities have shown how the quantum of extreme events has increased exponentially in South Asia.
The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) last year warned about the increase in extreme weather events across South Asia in the coming years if the emissions continue to be unchecked.
Asian urban areas are considered high-risk locations from projected climate change, extreme events, unplanned urbanization and rapid land-use change, an expert told IANS.
With increasing urbanization, the cities are at greater risk as the volume of damage in terms of loss of human lives, property damage and economic losses are higher than in the rural areas. Cities like Mumbai, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Delhi and Chennai are home to millions of people and so high is the climate risk.
Studies say Asia is home to 54 per cent of the world's urban population, and by 2050, 64 per cent of Asia's 3.3 billion people will be living in cities. Asia is also home to the world's largest urban agglomerations: Tokyo (37 million inhabitants), New Delhi (29 million) and Shanghai (26 million) are the top three with Cairo, Mumbai, Beijing and Dhaka home to nearly 20 million people each.
By 2028, New Delhi is projected to become the most populous city in the world.
In the warming environment, urban flooding is a major threat to cities and towns. Regional ecological challenges coupled with climatic variability have aggravated flood risks. Urban flooding which was primarily a concern of municipal and environmental governance has now attained the status of 'disaster'.
What is urban flooding?
Urban flooding can be defined as a combination of two factors, mismanagement of urban planning and climate change impacts which are intensifying and becoming more frequent.
In extreme cases, urban floods can result in disasters that set back urban development for years or even decades.
According to the IPCC, warming from 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius will increase extreme precipitation events across Asia, especially in East and South Asia.
Extreme rainfall has direct and increasing consequences on urban flooding risk, which is further exacerbated by urbanization trends that reduce land permeability, divert water flow and disrupt watersheds.
"Urbanization across the city continues to be unchecked, maximizing on the most the city has. Bengaluru is doing nothing for adaptation. The political system and will are not aligned with climate resilient policy. In fact, there has been no political stability to battle climate risk as 15 chief ministers have changed in the last 20 years," said Anjal Prakash, Research Director and Adjunct Professor, Bharti School of Public Policy, Indian School of Business and IPCC author.
According to the IPCC, urban climate-resilient development is observed to be more effective if it is responsive to regional and local land use development and adaptation gaps, and addresses the underlying drivers of vulnerability.
Several states across India are now working towards a climate action plan to fight climate change impacts. Mumbai has recently come out with one, aiming to reduce emissions.
Responding to the urgency, Aarti Khosla, Director, Climate Trends, told IANS, "People are increasingly understanding the implications of climate change and how these events are affecting them in real time now.
"Climate change will not only worsen these events but compounding disasters will destabilise growth and local governments. If decision-makers fail to bring integrated, inclusive planning to India's urban development, it will not only be counterproductive to the GDP-linked development we aim for, but also lose out on investment opportunities to develop future-ready cities which have the adaptive capacity for increasing populations." (IANS)