The Cities Most at Risk from Rising Sea Levels – World Bank – Is your City on the List?

Posted by on Sep 5, 2013 in Editorial Photography | No Comments

A fisherman carries bags of mussels, recently caught in the bay off of Jakarta. As a result of severe levels of water pollution in the bay, the mussels are now laced with toxins. Many fisherman being unable to sell seafood, resulting in large amounts of unemployment and continued health concerns.
A fisherman carries bags of mussels, recently caught in the bay off of Jakarta. As a result of severe levels of water pollution in the bay, the mussels are now laced with toxins. Many fisherman being unable to sell seafood, resulting in large amounts of unemployment and continued health concerns.

An Indonesian fisherman stands in a flooded area of Jakarta’s port.
An Indonesian fisherman stands in a flooded area of Jakarta’s port.

A man points to a line left during high tide in the recent floods in a community in Kampung Apung, in west Jakarta.
A man points to a line left during high tide in the recent floods in a community in Kampung Apung, in west Jakarta.

A boy looks out onto a destroyed home in one of the slum communities in central Jakarta. It was destroyed during the January floods which displaced approximately 20,000 people. The slum communities are at great risk as many of them are found lining the city’s waterways making them extremely vulnerable to flooding.
A boy looks out onto a destroyed home in one of the slum communities in central Jakarta. It was destroyed during the January floods which displaced approximately 20,000 people. The slum communities are at great risk as many of them are found lining the city’s waterways making them extremely vulnerable to flooding.

A small passenger bat crosses a canal in the main urban area of Jakarta. The canals were originally built to help the city cope with flooding however they have fallen into disrepair and are now clogged with refuse and human waste that is discarded into the waterway.
A small passenger bat crosses a canal in the main urban area of Jakarta. The canals were originally built to help the city cope with flooding however they have fallen into disrepair and are now clogged with refuse and human waste that is discarded into the waterway.

A man walks past a river that has been covered with refuse in a slum community in Muara Baru. Water pollution is prevalent throughout the city as local residents discard household waste directly into the city’s waterways. Floods also wash large large amounts of refuse into communities, completely blocking the flow of water.
A man walks past a river that has been covered with refuse in a slum community in Muara Baru. Water pollution is prevalent throughout the city as local residents discard household waste directly into the city’s waterways. Floods also wash large large amounts of refuse into communities, completely blocking the flow of water.

An Indonesian woman washes dishes in a slum community on the edge of a polluted reservoir in northern Jakarta. It is estimated over 25% of Indonesians live in slum areas, with more than 5 million people living in slum areas in the greater Jakarta area.
An Indonesian woman washes dishes in a slum community on the edge of a polluted reservoir in northern Jakarta. It is estimated over 25% of Indonesians live in slum areas, with more than 5 million people living in slum areas in the greater Jakarta area.

A woman washes herself in the Ciliwung River, a waterway that has been described as one of the most polluted rivers in the world. The river often floods, breaking its banks sending its polluted water into the nearby communities.
A woman washes herself in the Ciliwung River, a waterway that has been described as one of the most polluted rivers in the world. The river often floods, breaking its banks sending its polluted water into the nearby communities.

A fisherman waves away flies from his recent catch of fish in the mangroves of north-west Jakarta. Much of the city’s seafood is hazardous to eat as severe water pollution has led to contamination in the food chain.
A fisherman waves away flies from his recent catch of fish in the mangroves of north-west Jakarta. Much of the city’s seafood is hazardous to eat as severe water pollution has led to contamination in the food chain.

Many toilets in Jakarta feed directly into the city’s waterways, resulting in risks to the health of local populations in the area.
Many toilets in Jakarta feed directly into the city’s waterways, resulting in risks to the health of local populations in the area.

A government worker collects trash from a polluted drainage channel in central Jakarta. The city’s waterways are all heavily polluted and were recently listed as some of the worst in Asia by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
A government worker collects trash from a polluted drainage channel in central Jakarta. The city’s waterways are all heavily polluted and were recently listed as some of the worst in Asia by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Children play in the remains of an abandoned building in a flooded district in the northern port area of Jakarta. Almost 40% of Jakarta lies below sea-level leading to flooding in many areas, even during the dry season.
Children play in the remains of an abandoned building in a flooded district in the northern port area of Jakarta. Almost 40% of Jakarta lies below sea-level leading to flooding in many areas, even during the dry season.

A group of your boys gather outside an abandoned building in central Jakarta. Numerous buildings are found abandoned on the banks of the city’s 13 rivers, as people flee the regular floods that engulf homes and communities throughout the city.
A group of your boys gather outside an abandoned building in central Jakarta. Numerous buildings are found abandoned on the banks of the city’s 13 rivers, as people flee the regular floods that engulf homes and communities throughout the city.

A man walks through a mangrove forest in the north-west of Jakarta. According to the Jakarta Post, “it is now only a matter of time before mangroves are totally erased from the map of Jakarta — a victim of unbridled urbanization and industrialization programs initiated by the government”.
A man walks through a mangrove forest in the north-west of Jakarta. According to the Jakarta Post, “it is now only a matter of time before mangroves are totally erased from the map of Jakarta — a victim of unbridled urbanization and industrialization programs initiated by the government”.

A worker carries a recently cut piece of timber near the shores of a reservoir in northern Jakarta. Trees are being cleared to enable to the expansion and dredging of the reservoir which is choked with pollution. It is hoped that this will help ease flooding in the local area.
A worker carries a recently cut piece of timber near the shores of a reservoir in northern Jakarta. Trees are being cleared to enable to the expansion and dredging of the reservoir which is choked with pollution. It is hoped that this will help ease flooding in the local area.

A piece of a building is slowly engulfed by the sand and sea in the port area of northern Jakarta. Rising sea-levels are a continuing threat, exacerbating the city’s many environmental and social problems.
A piece of a building is slowly engulfed by the sand and sea in the port area of northern Jakarta. Rising sea-levels are a continuing threat, exacerbating the city’s many environmental and social problems.

A schoolgirl waits for a boat in a slum community in central Jakarta. Many of the city’s poorest residents live just inches above the waterline throughout the city.
A schoolgirl waits for a boat in a slum community in central Jakarta. Many of the city’s poorest residents live just inches above the waterline throughout the city.

Children walk through ruins of a flooded district in the northern port area of Jakarta. Almost 40% of Jakarta lies below sea-level leading to flooding in many areas, even during the dry season.
Children walk through ruins of a flooded district in the northern port area of Jakarta. Almost 40% of Jakarta lies below sea-level leading to flooding in many areas, even during the dry season.

People swim in a water park in northern Jakarta. Many richer communities in the city have been accused of distancing themselves of the problems faced by the residents of poorer communities, who are the first to feel the effects of flooding and the subsequent social and health problems.
People swim in a water park in northern Jakarta. Many richer communities in the city have been accused of distancing themselves of the problems faced by the residents of poorer communities, who are the first to feel the effects of flooding and the subsequent social and health problems.

Waves engulf a tree on the north coast of Jakarta. 40% of the city is now below sea-level and with rising sea-levels more and more areas of the city are flooding.
Waves engulf a tree on the north coast of Jakarta. 40% of the city is now below sea-level and with rising sea-levels more and more areas of the city are flooding.

A recent report led by the World Bank lists the cities most at risk from flooding, due to rising sea-levels.

The study, “pinpoints cities around the world that will be most at risk and finds the costs of global flood damage could rise to $1 trillion a year if cities don’t take steps to adapt.”

This is an issue I have great interest in, having covered the subject in my travels across Asia, most recently documenting the challenges the Indonesian capital of Jakarta is facing with rising sea-levels and flooding. See gallery above.

There are two presentations of the list, as detailed below.

The first is determined by the total monetary cost of the potential damage. In order, those cities at the most risk are:

1 – Guangzhou, China
2 – Miami, USA
3 – New York, USA
4 – New Orleans, USA
5 – Mumbai, India
6 – Nagoya, Japan
7 – Tampa, USA
8 – Boston, USA
9 – Shenzhen, China
10 – Osaka, Japan

When measured as a percentage of cities’ GDP, to take into account of fast changing cities in developing nations, the list changes to:

1 – Guangzhou, China
2 – New Orleans, USA
3 – Guayaquil, Ecuador
4 – Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
5 – Abidjan, Ivory Coast
6 – Zhanjiang, China
7 – Mumbai, India
8 – Khulna, Bangladesh
9 – Palembang, Indonesia
10 – Shenzhen, China

It’s very interesting to see these two lists. It makes clear that the risks of rising sea-levels will have significant affects on urban areas in Asia and North America.

As I witnessed in Jakarta, it is often the poorest of residents in these cities that are at greatest risk. In the Indonesian capital, most of the slum communities could be found along the waterways of the city and along the coast. In many cases, homes would be just inches from the water.

How each country deals with the threats from rising sea-levels will be specific to their certain situation. This is undoubtedly another global environmental issue that threatens communities across the world.

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