A devastated Vishakapatnam has brought home the need for coastal cities to be climate resilient in terms of extreme events with respect to preparation and infrastructure. Recent studies indicate that there is a long way to go in achieving this. Both the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2007 and the Environment Ministry had said there would be a high likelihood of increase in the intensity of cyclonic events on the east coast of India.
A working paper on Planning Climate Resilient Coastal Cities — Learning from Panaji and Visakhapatnam by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), released last week, says that it is highly pertinent to start climate proofing infrastructure and services, given the climate sensitive nature of the existing infrastructure systems in the cities. The study says it is imperative to assess sea level rise combined with other factors like storm surge and cyclones and changes in precipitation.
According to the IPCC, coastal areas face multiple risks related to climate change and variability. India has 130 towns and cities within 84 coastal districts and according to the Planning Commission, the rise in sea level is in the range of 1.06 to 1.75 mm per year in the past century.
The year-long study by TERI is supported by USAID’s Climate Change Resilient Development project. Its aim is to develop and test approaches that can increase resilience of infrastructure assets. Divya Sharma from TERI, who presented the study, said the East Coast was more vulnerable to sea level rise and the larger focus is to examine its impact, the increasing intensity of rainfall and extreme events and how they will affect cities and infrastructure.
Among the recommendations of the study include steps to reduce the impact of flooding, changing building design to reduce flood damage, maintaining safe heights for electric sub-stations and leak proof storage, retrofitting and adaptation of airport and sea port systems, and redesigning drainage networks and buildings.
Both the cities in the study were keen on climate proofing their infrastructure and in setting up data based management systems which will be taken up for further action. The study developed an inventory of critical infrastructure as a starting point apart from identifying hotspots in the city, demonstration of tools and methods for planning and a generalised methodology for vulnerability assessment of coastal cities to climate variability and sea level rise.
The knowledge of climate, particularly in the context of sea level rise (SLR) and other factors impacting SLR levels like rainfall and storm surges formed a component of the study.