Major Asian cities face risk of catastrophic floods

December 05, 2007

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PARIS, Dec 4: Asia’s massive delta cities have most to fear from catastrophic storm floods driven by climate change, according to an OECD report published here on Tuesday.

Of 136 port cities assessed around the world for their exposure to once-in-a-century coastal flooding, 38 per cent are in Asia and 27 per cent are located in deltas, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development said.

Publication of the report coincided with an 11-day UN conference in Bali, Indonesia, aimed at shaping a long-term response to the climate peril.

Today, around 40 million people around the world are exposed to coastal flooding in large port cities, according to the report.

The top 10 cities most at risk, in terms of exposed population, are Mumbai, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Miami, Ho Chi Minh City, Kolkata, Greater New York, Osaka-Kobe, Alexandria and New Orleans.

The total value of assets exposed in the 136 port cities analysed is $3,000 billion -- or around five per cent of the global gross domestic product (GDP) in 2005, it says.

Miami, Greater New York, New Orleans, Osaka-Kobe, Tokyo, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Nagoya, Tampa-St. Petersburg (Florida) and Virginia Beach (Virginia) are the most valuable pieces of real estate at risk.

By the 2070s, the total population exposed could more than triple, to around 150 million people. Of the “Top-10” most exposed coastal cities in 2070, nine are in Asia.

The 10 are: Kolkata, Mumbai, Dhaka, Guangzhou, Ho Chi Minh City, Shanghai, Bangkok, Rangoon, Miami and Haiphong (Vietnam).

The total value of assets exposed by the 136 cities in the 2070s is put at $35 trillion, or nine per cent of projected global annual GDP.

Ranked according to assets exposed to flooding, the 2070 list is headed by Miami, Guangzhou, Greater New York, Kolkata, Shanghai, Mumbai, Tianjin (China), Tokyo, Hong Kong and Bangkok.

“Climate change is already happening, and concerted action is needed now to prevent its worst impacts,” said OECD secretary-general Angel Gurria, noting the Dec 3-14 Bali meeting.

“A range of economic policy options is available and political commitment is needed to implement them.”

The report was authored by OECD experts working with scientists from Britain’s University of Southampton, US company Risk Management Solutions and France’s Meteo-France and Centre for International Climate and Environmental Research (CIRED).

Their assessment projects the damage that would be caused by an extreme but very rare weather event -- a combination of storm surge and high winds that, in purely statistical terms, occurs once a century.—AFP