KOCHI: The direct impact of global climate change is at our doorstep,it seems. According to a World Bank report, Kochi is the 14th city in the World, relative to city GDP, in ‘most at risk’ category by 2050 due to sea level rise and land subsidence.
Mumbai, Khulna (Bangladesh) and Surat are among the other cities in this category. Given 20cm of sea level rise, the World Bank report ‘Leveraging Urbanisation in South Asia’, released recently, suggests that in order to retain probable annual economic loss at current levels Chennai, Chittagong, Kochi, Mumbai, Surat, and Visakhapatnam would need to raise dykes - a natural or artificial slope or wall to regulate water levels - by 20 cm. “Another 10 large and five small to medium cities face similar risks and have low to moderate vulnerability levels. Chennai and Kochi are among these. It is of particular concern that among cities facing high hydromet risks today, none is projected to experience only moderate climate impacts,” the report states. “Indiscriminate developmental activities by ruining backwaters and mangroves in Kochi would ultimately lead to a disaster. A slight increase in sea level will make Kochi vulnerable to lasting floods. Encroachments in the coastal belt demolish the natural safety wall and Kochi is now at high risk. Another immediate impact will be on potable water and sea level rise will increase salinity in drinking water in a considerable manner,” said environmentalist C R Neelakandan. It is estimated that the average sea level is projected to increase by 30-115 cm by 2100.
“With the help of urban planners, engineers, and academics, cities can revisit urban design and ensure enforcement of building codes and land-use plans to minimise or prevent further building in risk-prone areas. Thus, to reinforce structures so that they are resilient to various hazards. City leaders should use policy tools and incentives to enforce building codes, which may impose extra costs but is an investment that may well more than offset the post-disaster costs,” according to the remedy suggested by the World Bank study.
While commenting on the report, K J Sohan, Town Planning Committee chairman, Kochi Corporation, said Kochi is not equipped to meet the outcome of a rise in sea level.