Dhaka tops risk table in Asia climate threat study

Wed Nov 11, 2009 7:01pm EST

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SINGAPORE, Nov 12 (Reuters) - Dhaka, Manila and Jakarta are among the major cities in Asia most vulnerable to rising seas, storms and other climate change impacts, underscoring the threat to lives and economies, a report said on Thursday.

Conservation group WWF studied the threats facing 11 major cities in Asia, all located along coasts or river deltas, and assigned them a score from 1 to 10 based on how exposed they were to climate change, ability to adapt and impact on livelihoods.

The cities, which also include Calcutta, Phnom Penh, Ho Chi Minh City, Shanghai, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, have a combined population of about 120 million and are expected to keep growing, compounding the climate risks they face, says the report, "Mega-Stress for Mega-Cities".

"This report shows that these cities will be at the front line of climate change impacts. They therefore have a strong imperative to act decisively to avoid the dangerous levels of warming." ---------------------------------------------------------------- - Report available here ---------------------------------------------------------------- - Apart from the threat to millions of lives, with the poorest most vulnerable, climate change places at risk valuable infrastructure and the cities' huge contributions to GDP, it says.

The study, which draws heavily from U.N. reports, ranked the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka the most vulnerable, with a score of 9.

"This large, relatively poor city sits just meters above current sea levels, is regularly impacted by tropical cyclones and flooding and has very limited adaptive capacity," it says.

Dhaka's current population of more than 13 million is expected to reach 25 million by 2025, the report says, and in addition to growing flooding risks, is also sinking due to subsidence.

RISKS GROWING FOR JAKARTA

Jakarta in Indonesia and the Philippine capital Manila both scored 8 because they are highly vulnerable largely because of their size, degree of exposure to regular flooding and relatively low capacity to adapt.

Jakarta, with a population of 24 million in the greater metropolitan area, is also sinking and salt-water is seeping into underground water supplies.

"Sea-level rise also threatens Jakarta and the city is at risk of losing more land quickly. Specifically, sea levels in Jakarta Bay are expected to rise at a rate of 57 mm (2 inches) per year, which could submerge as much as 160 square kilometres of northern Jakarta by 2050 and permanently inundate some areas," the report says.

Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia and Singapore were the least vulnerable in part because of their wealth and strong governance even though the threats from rising seas and storm surges and flooding were substantial for Hong Kong and Singapore. Flooding and landslides from intense storms was a major threat for the Malaysian capital.

"Asia is urbanizing rapidly, and we can be certain that urban areas will be crucial battlegrounds in the fight against climate change," Kim Carstensen, head of WWF's global climate change initiative, said in a statement.

"Cities are responsible for most of the world's energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, but they are also pioneers when it comes to developing innovative solutions." (Reporting by David Fogarty; Editing by David Fox)





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