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Rising Seas, Development Predicted to Cause More Flood Disasters

2017-09-02

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[00:00.00]
  • The Tropical Storm Harvey in the Unites States and the monsoon in South Asia have again shown how dangerous and destructive floodwaters can be.
  • [00:15.17]
  • More than 1,200 people have died across India, Bangladesh and Nepal as a result of flooding.
  • [00:26.74]
  • In the American state of Texas, more than 40 people have died and at least 30,000 have been displaced.
  • [00:37.29]
  • These are the latest examples of powerful storms striking heavily populated areas, followed by extreme flooding.
  • [00:49.55]
  • But storms alone are not the only cause of flooding.
  • [00:55.47]
  • Increasing development has been blamed for taking away natural drainage areas that used to limit flooding in cities.
  • [01:07.54]
  • The latest U.S. flooding following Hurricane Harvey was in Houston, Texas, America’s fourth largest city.
  • [01:19.08]
  • Areas around Houston have been hit with serious storm-caused flooding in the past, the last time in April 2016.
  • [01:31.22]
  • At the time, scientists and experts blamed the flooding on continued growth across the city, according to the Texas Tribune.
  • [01:41.98]
  • They called on officials to pass laws limiting developers from paving land that used to take in large amounts of rainwater.
  • [01:53.47]
  • G.K. Bhat is head of the think tank Taru Leading Edge.
  • [02:00.92]
  • On the flooding in India, he said “In a normal ground outside the city, nearly 80 percent of the rain would have got absorbed… with concrete and tarmac all around, we are creating almost a near-total impervious area. Thus, the flood gets amplified in urban areas.”
  • [02:27.78]
  • Another big concern is rising sea levels that are predicted to put major areas of the world under water in coming decades.
  • [02:40.07]
  • Numerous scientific studies have confirmed that global sea levels began rising in the 19th century.
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  • The levels increased 14-17 centimeters during the 20th century and just keep rising.
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  • In July, hundreds of scientists from around the world gathered in New York City for a major conference to examine sea-level rise.
  • [03:11.45]
  • The conference was organized by the not-for-profit World Climate Research Programme, with support from the United Nations, the U.S. Space Agency NASA and other organizations.
  • [03:27.15]
  • In its closing statement, the group said global sea levels are currently rising at a rate of about 30 centimeters per century.
  • [03:38.52]
  • The group predicted that if climate conditions stay the same,
  • [03:43.40]
  • world sea levels could rise one meter or more throughout the 21st century, possibly reaching several meters by 2300.
  • [03:55.44]
  • A recent report by a group that analyzes climate changes in the Arctic said the area is currently warming faster than anywhere else on earth.
  • [04:06.68]
  • The Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme said melting ice in the Arctic currently causes about 35 percent of global sea-level rise.
  • [04:19.23]
  • Over a period of decades, experts say rising sea levels worldwide could cause disastrous flooding conditions.
  • [04:29.35]
  • Numerous U.S. communities face this same threat.
  • [04:33.65]
  • Many coastal areas already experience regular flooding problems, according to the Washington-based Union of Concerned Scientists.
  • [04:44.99]
  • Erika Spanger-Siegfried is a senior analyst with the organization’s Climate and Energy Program.
  • [04:54.90]
  • She oversaw two reports that identified areas across the U.S. experiencing what the group calls chronic inundation.
  • [05:05.55]
  • It defines this as flooding that prevents people or businesses from carrying out normal daily activities.
  • [05:15.80]
  • “What we see just in the next couple of decades is the expansion of areas that are chronically inundated to other currently unaffected parts of the coast. And really, mid-century and beyond is when we start to see major metropolitan areas affected by this chronic inundation as well.”
  • [05:34.86]
  • Spanger-Siegfried suggested three main possible solutions to fight rising sea levels.
  • [05:43.62]
  • The first is to build seawalls or levees.
  • [05:47.60]
  • The second is to build homes elevated or create waterways to carry floodwaters.
  • [05:54.88]
  • The third would be for people to relocate to areas not threatened by flooding.
  • [06:01.85]
  • She says communities will likely use a combination of these methods in the short term.
  • [06:09.88]
  • “It is human nature to reach for defensive measures and to try and simply keep the water out and keep, maintain things as they are within communities, which is fully understandable.”
  • [06:23.52]
  • Michael Bogin is a New York environmental lawyer.
  • [06:27.99]
  • He told VOA that the US government under President Barack Obama had taken steps to give local officials more power to regulate development as a way to prevent flooding.
  • [06:43.00]
  • Bogin said one idea to deal with the problem is for governments to buy land from homeowners in areas with a high flood risk.
  • [06:53.55]
  • Such a program was used in Staten Island, New York, after Hurricane Sandy caused widespread damage in the area.
  • [07:03.78]
  • Owners of destroyed or damaged homes were made offers to sell the property to the state.
  • [07:11.06]
  • Buyers of the property were then required to follow post-Sandy flood rules when building new homes.
  • [07:20.37]
  • But Bogin says clearly that's not going to be a complete solution for cities with populations of four, six or eight million people, like New York or Houston.
  • [07:34.19]
  • He added that in New York City, officials have explored the building of more environment-friendly infrastructure.
  • [07:42.93]
  • The idea is to take areas that have been paved over and turn them back into natural land areas that can take in extra water during floods.
  • [07:55.59]
  • I’m Bryan Lynn.
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