WWF: Kolkata facing brutal future in warmer world

NEW DELHI: Dhaka, Manila, Jakarta and Kolkata are topping a new list of major Asian cities vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Kolkata is 
the fourth most vulnerable Asian city but number three among those least prepared to adapt.

According to Mega-Stress For Mega-Cities, a new report by World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), many of these cities are highly exposed to threats such as storms and flooding while lacking the capacity to protect themselves at a time when their severity and frequency are rising due to global warming.

“Climate change is already shattering cities across developing Asia and will be even more brutal in the future,” said Kim Carstensen, leader of the WWF Global Climate Initiative.

“These cities are vulnerable and need urgent help to adapt, in order to protect the lives of millions of citizens, a massive amount of assets, and their large contributions to the national GDP.”

The WWF report covers 11 large cities across Asia, all located in coastal areas or river deltas. Following Dhaka (9 out of 10 possible vulnerability points), other cities at high risk are Manila and Jakarta (8 each), Kolkata and Phnom Penh (7 each), Ho Chi Minh City and Shanghai (6 each), Bangkok (5), and Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong and Singapore (4 each).

“Kolkata is within the Ganga delta and thus only metres above current sea level, making it prone to salt-water intrusion and sea-level rise effects. Being eastern India’s main centre for business and commerce, it has expanded to accommodate the swelling population by reclaiming significant amounts of surrounding wetland, compounding the problem of flooding,” says Anurag Danda, head of the Climate Adaptation and Sundarbans Programme, WWF-India.

Allowing climate change to go unchecked will cost more lives and more money in the future, but damage can be averted if action is taken now.

“There are a number of no-regret adaptation options that can be implemented now to minimise future costs,” Danda said.

“To sustain Kolkata’s development, the city’s adaptive capacity needs to be significantly shored up, the lack of which was acutely felt this May when cyclone Aila passed over West Bengal.”

The report includes rankings for sub-categories such as environmental exposure, socio-economic sensitivity and adaptive capacity. Poorer cities often lack sufficient adaptive capacity and generally rank higher in terms of their overall vulnerability.

From Economics Times

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