HONOLULU (Oct. 14, 2010)—In recent years, climate change effects such as sea-level rise and intensified storms, along with land subsidence and rapid urban growth, have left Asia’s coastal megacities increasingly vulnerable to flooding disasters. But in many of these cities appropriate risk-reduction measures have not been implemented or even seriously considered, according to a recent research paper by Roland J. Fuchs, a senior fellow at the East-West Center in Honolulu.

Among the barriers, Fuchs writes, are a lack of awareness, the immediacy of other problems such as housing, transportation and poverty, budgetary constraints, and a lack of appropriate governance structures and technical skills.

According to Fuchs, reducing the risk of large disasters “will require the thorough incorporation of climate risk management into urban planning and governance. This will depend in part on the scientific community providing improved urban-scale predictions of climate change-related risks, but also, more importantly, on political leadership recognizing the growing threats of climate change, developing a coherent strategy … and mobilizing the necessary resources.”

Among the areas most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change are Asia’s low-lying coastal regions and large river deltas, including the Ganges-Brahmaputra, Yangtze and Mekong deltas. Despite the absence of precise climate change predictions, studies suggest that climate change, sea level rise and sinking of deltas are all occurring at much faster rates than originally projected.

In the paper, titled “Cities at Risk: Asia's Coastal Cities in an Age of Climate Change,” Fuchs proposes eight adaptation measures. They include:

  • Assessing the risk and vulnerability posed by climate-change coastal flooding using a critical threshold approach.
  • Motivating a policy response by urban officials through improved communication of risk and vulnerability including use of computer-based visualization techniques
  • Relying less on overall technological fixes and more on spatial planning and channeling of future growth toward low-hazard zones.
  • Repairing and strengthening existing flood defenses, completing planned works, raising and reinforcing critical infrastructure such as power, water and medical facilities, and executing “no regret” measures such as improving sewage, water supply and drainage works.
  • Developing effective warning systems and evacuation plans.
  • Asserting control of groundwater withdrawal to reduce land subsidence.
  • Advocating international support for risk-reduction measures, including development of necessary human and institutional capacities as well as disaster response and relief measures.
  • Devising urban governance structures that incorporate a strategic planning process for adaptation to climate change. This will involve coordination and collaboration across agencies and governments at the national, regional and local levels.


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