Rising Sea-Level

Bharat Dogra

Many sided risks are likely to increase greatly in coastal areas in the coming decades due to the impact of climate change and related factors. This is evident also from the projections presented in the fifth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Global mean sea level rise by the last two decades of the 21st century (as compared to sea level in 1986-2005) will likely be in the ranges of 26-55 cm under a low-emissions scenario, but 45-82 cm for a high-emissions scenario—with total sea level rise of upto 98 cm by 2100 under this later scenario.

The IPCC warns that this magnitude of sea level rise by the century's end implies significantly increased risks for South Asia's coastal settlements, as well as for coastal economies, cultures and eco-systems, particularly if combined with changes in cyclone frequency or intensity. Low lying, densely populated coastal areas in South Asia including India and Bangladesh will be at increased risk of strong surges, putting many millions of people at risk.

Further this report warns that in some parts of South Asia such as the east coast of India clusters of districts with poor infrastructure and rapid population growth are also the regions of maximum climate vulnerability. Extreme events are expected to be more catastrophic for the people living in such districts.

A large proportion of Asia's population lives in low-elevation coastal zones that are particularly at risk from climate change hazards, including sea level rise, storm surges and typhoons. According to the fifth assessment report of the IPCC the Asian port cities that could be most at risk, in terms of population and assets exposed to coastal flooding will be Kolkata, Mumbai and Dhaka.

Hence there is urgent need for comprehensive and detailed planning in coastal areas to improve the adaptive capacity of local communities as well as to avoid anything which can increase the vulnerability of people living in the fast changing conditions of coastal areas. The overall development of the area should take place keeping in view these factors so that any costly mistakes can be avoided. Protection of livelihoods of people particularly weaker sections should also receive adequate attention.

Vol. 48, No. 52, Jul 3 - 9, 2016