How China’s sponge cities are preparing for sea-level rise

sea

(Ivana Cajina, Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Robert Muggah, Co-founder, Igarape Institute and SecDev Group


All coastal cities are facing sea-level rise, but some will be hit harder than others. Asian cities are in for a particularly rough ride. Part of the reason for that is that the populations of coastal cities are bulging: about four out of every five peopleimpacted by sea-level rise by the middle of this century will live in East or South-East Asia.

Surging waters will lead to spiking food prices, growing hunger and social unrest. The conservative scientific consensus is that a 1.5°C increase in global temperature will see global sea levels rise between 1.7 and 3.2 feet by 2100. Even if governments, businesses and citizens somehow manage to keep global temperatures from rising to 2°C, by 2050 at least 570 cities and some 800 million people will be exposed to rising seas and storm surges.

It is not just people and real estate that are at risk, but roads, railways, ports, agricultural lands, sanitation and drinking water pipelines and reservoirs, as well as mass transit systems and underwater internet cables. While some coastal cities and nations will slip underwater, the rest will need to adapt – and quickly.

Few of the world’s fastest-growing coastal cities have yet to adequately prepare for rising sea levels in the 21st century. Making matters worse, a growing number of megacities such as Shanghai or Jakarta are sinking at the same time as seawaters are seeping in. This is not only because they are heavy, but due to the extraction of vast quantities of groundwater by their residents.

Chinese cities are taking action to mitigate and adapt to sea-level rise. The Chinese were motivated in part by disaster. In 1998, the country’s worst floods in half a century killed more than 4,000 people when the Yangtze River Basin overflowed. And massive cities like Beijing, which has more than doubled its total land coverage in the last decade, have also witnessed an uptick in floods. In fact, roughly 641 of China’s 654 largest cities are affected by regular flooding, especially sprawling megacities on the coast.

View image on TwitterView image on Twitter

John Curtin@johncurtinEA

China’s ‘sponge city’ initiative – managing water challenges in 21st century mega-cities http://edition.cnn.com/2017/09/17/asia/china-sponge-cities/index.html?sr=twCNN091817china-sponge-cities0946AMStoryGal 

Looking to the future, the Chinese government has responded with a combination of hard engineering, environmental and people-based strategies, together with the relocation of millions of citizens. Notably, in 2014, China launched the so-called “sponge city” initiative.

The term is not native to China, having originated in Hyderabad, in India, after city authorities started collecting storm water to offset water demand during planting season. Likewise, Vinh City in Vietnam also adopted a “city as sponge” strategy to lessen the impacts of seasonal floods on vulnerable urban areas.

In the case of China, the sponge strategy requires that 80% of all urban land is capable of absorbing or reusing 70% of storm water. The goal is to repurpose and retrofit cities – including public spaces, schools and residential areas – so that they can absorb more water. Candidate cities are investing in permeable pavement, artificial ponds and wetlands and rain gardens that store excess rainfall in underground storage tanks and tunnels. Water is only discharged into rivers after levels have receded. These kinds of projects do not come cheap, so some city authorities are entering into public-private partnerships to cover the costs. And since subsidies from the central government are due to end in 2020, local governments are scrambling to find investors – including real-estate developers – to fill the coming funding gap.

Still, at least 30 cities are part of the initiative, including Shanghai – one of the most flood-prone cities in the world. The Chinese expect that at least another 600 will join in the coming decade.

Shanghai’s authorities are putting enormous stock in adaptation strategies. And not without good reason – by 2050 the megacity is expected to experience flooding and rainfall that is 20% higher than the global average. The city is already rocked by two to three typhoons every year.

To reduce its exposure to rising seas, Shanghai has constructed 520 kilometres of protective seawalls, stretching across the Hangzhou Bay and encircling the islands of Chongming, Hengsha and Changzing. Shanghai has also installed massive mechanical gates to regulate overflowing rivers, similar to barriers established in Rotterdam.

From Asia to Europe and Africa to the Americas, sea-level rise is inevitable. Mitigation efforts must be scaled up. And adaptation is essential. At a minimum, governments, businesses and citizens need to avoid making a bad situation worse.

 

Upgrading zoning laws and reducing building in at-risk coastal areas and flood plains is the right place to start. Proactively developing strategies to relocate populations vulnerable to sea-level rise is no less important. Societies will need to develop new ways to share the burden of climate change, including sea-level rise. This will require innovative financing models and bold partnerships – and above all a new mindset primed to cope with too much, and too little, water.

the sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

State aid: Commission invites interested parties to provide comments on proposed draft Climate, Energy and Environmental State aid Guidelines

Parliament gives green light to EU-Singapore trade and investment protection deals

COVID 19 Vaccine: A new terror or a savior for mankind?

Cyprus President urges collective leadership to address ‘root causes’ of world’s crises

EU Budget 2021 approved: supporting the recovery

Obama turns the G20 summit into warmongering platform

This is how many people are forcibly displaced worldwide

EU food watchdog: more transparency, better risk prevention

COVID-19: What you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic on 9 April

Smart toys: Your child’s best friend or a creepy surveillance tool?

Draghi will not hesitate to zero ECB’s basic interest rate

Biggest London City Banks ready to move core European operations to Frankfurt or Dublin?

Ukraine: EU report notes continued implementation of the reform agenda though challenges remain

EU: Turkey to shelter Syrian refugees and turn other immigrants back in return of €3 billion

UN working to prevent attacks on civilians in eastern DR Congo

CLIMATE CHANGE FOCUS: Cows, coffee and sustainable farming

The world invested almost $2 trillion in energy last year. These 3 charts show where it went

Anti-vaccers: does the empty can rattle the most?

EU consumers will soon be able to defend their rights collectively

Could robot leaders do better than our current politicians?

MWC 2016 LIVE: Industry looks to reduce mobile gender gap

Why education and accountability are important for developing countries?

The metamorphosis of the categorical imperative in medical students

How should cities prepare for self-driving cars? Here’s a roadmap

EU fight against tax-evasion and money laundering blocked by Britain

UN chief welcomes Taliban’s temporary truce announcement, encourages all parties to embrace ‘Afghan-owned peace’

Although Greece is struggling to pay salaries and pensions Varoufakis is “optimistic”; the Sting reports live from EBS 2015

Coronavirus Global Response: EIB and Commission pledge additional €4.9 billion

Industry 4.0: Championing Europe’s fourth industrial revolution

A European young student shares his thoughts on Quality Education

France: New labour laws for more competitiveness

EU adopts rebalancing measures in reaction to US steel and aluminium tariffs

Employment and Social Developments in Europe: 2018 review confirms positive trends but highlights challenges, in particular linked to automation and digitalisation

The more we learn about Antarctica, the greater the urgency to act on climate change

Dare to be vulnerable, and three other lessons in leadership

Lorenzo Natali Media Prize 2019: winners of EU’s development journalism award unveiled

A silent killer: the impact of a changing climate on health

Switzerland to introduce strict restrictions on executive pay

Ahead of State of the Union the European Youth Forum highlights lack of action on youth employment

The Challenger Within – Mental Health In Romania During Lockdown

10 ways COVID-19 could reshape offices

Why salaries could finally be on the way up

Problems Faced by Young Doctors and What We Can Do About Them

How big data can help us fight climate change faster

Hydrogen power is here to stay. How do we convince the public that it’s safe?

EU Facility for Refugees in Turkey: €6 billion to support refugees and local communities in need fully mobilised

Promoting Health in the Brazilian Amazon: one nation but many cultures

Here’s what happened when a charity gave $1,000 each to poor households in Kenya

Will Cameron succeed in keeping UK inside the EU and reverse the present economic downturn?

Armenia should take vigorous measures against entrenched corruption

State aid: Commission approves €1.25 billion German measure to recapitalise TUI

How Britain’s backyard bird feeders are shaping evolution

The EU responds to US challenges by fining Apple with €13 billion

Only international actions can settle the world’s ‘enormous and diverse cross-border challenges’, Qatar tells UN Assembly

Questions & Answers on vaccine negotiations

Brain drain 2017: why do medical students need to emigrate to become doctors in 2017?

Investment and Financing under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI): EU and Chinese stakeholders share their views at European Business Summit 2018

World Malaria Day: 7 things to know about the deadly disease

Systems leadership can change the world – but what exactly is it?

Commission launches open access publishing platform for scientific papers

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s