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Stay or go? Asian nations mull options as seas rise, cities sink

6 Comments
By Rina Chandran

Small islands and coastal cities in Asia-Pacific need more funds to assist vulnerable communities and help them decide whether to relocate or stay and defend against rising sea levels and extreme weather, climate experts said on Thursday.

Indonesia last month said it would relocate its capital from the sinking city of Jakarta, while Fiji plans to move dozens of coastal villages inland, and the Marshall Islands is building sea walls to protect coastal communities.

"As much as possible, we must try to adapt and mitigate in situ because that's where people have their homes, land and livelihoods," said Harjeet Singh, global climate change lead at charity ActionAid.

"But more places are becoming uninhabitable because of land degradation, rising sea levels or other weather impacts, and there is no choice but to relocate," he said at the sidelines of a United Nations climate event in Bangkok.

More than 20 million people are uprooted every year by floods, storms, landslides and other extreme winter conditions, with the vast majority of such displacement occurring in the Asia-Pacific region, according to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

Displacement can have devastating impacts on those who have to move, as well as on communities that receive them, said Victor Bernard, Asia-Pacific program officer at human rights advocacy the Raoul Wallenberg Institute.

"Countries must ensure relocations are not forced, and that the rights of vulnerable communities are protected," he said.

Fiji moved its first coastal community inland in 2014, and may have to move dozens more to higher ground as sea levels rise, said Nilesh Prakash, the country's head of climate change and international cooperation.

"Moving them inland means they lose access to livelihoods. There are also socio-cultural and traditional ties to consider."

Fiji, with 900,000 people on hundreds of islands, plans to set up a fund to pay for loss and damages caused by the effects of climate change, including relocation, he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Sea-level rise and erosion are set to make most island atolls uninhabitable by 2050, and for the Marshall Islands, home to 75,000 people, moving to higher ground is not an option.

The islanders are already seeing the effects of warming oceans in damaged reefs and fish stocks, said Angeline Heine, the country's national energy planner.

"We don't have the luxury of more land or mountains to move to. We are just focused on our survival, and wondering whether we will still be here 30-40 years from now," she said.

Even wealthy city-state Singapore faces serious threats.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong last month said protecting the low-lying island against rising sea levels could cost S$100 billion ($72 billion) or more over the coming decades.

Where possible, cities should be investing to adapt, with infrastructure such as seawalls, as well as nature-based solutions, said Diane Archer, research fellow at the Stockholm Environment Institute in Bangkok.

"It is also vital to ensure an urban plan which preserves essential natural features such as wetlands and mangroves, and that appropriate regulations are in place to manage groundwater extraction and reduce greenhouse gas emissions," she said.

© Thomson Reuters Foundation

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

6 Comments
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This is an example of a "Darwin Moment" in history. People are important, land is not.

Move with your precious family or have a disaster-filled life or worse.

In 1996, I had a similar decision - my Darwin Moment. Decided to leave it on a bay that had flooded slightly. 10 yrs later and that location was wiped out by a huge storm.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

the sea will be 8 meters higher within the next few years

Not true.

Global seas rise is 3.1mm/yr now. You can do the math.

In 2012, at the request of the U.S. Climate Change Science Program, NOAA scientists conducted a review by 2100**.

My Darwin decision (see above) had me move from about 2 meters above sea level to over 300 meters and 420 km from the ocean. Avoided places with huge region-wide natural disasters like hurricanes, flooding, earthquakes, tsunamis, too hot or too cold. Also, plenty of fresh water with no restrictions on use.

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2019/05/21/world/science-health-world/sea-level-rise-2-meters-leading-displacement-millions-plausible-2100-study/ a 2019 article says 2m sea rise for Tokyo over the next 80 yrs.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

but the sea will be 8 meters higher within the next few years

Did you mean centimeters (or even millimeters)? The highest estimates I can find for sea level rises from Greenland's ice cap melting are three meters by the end of the century.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Stay or go? Asian nations mull options as seas rise, cities sink

Indonesia last month said it would relocate its capital from the sinking city of Jakarta,

But more places are becoming uninhabitable because of land degradation,

Are climate change zealots claiming that land is sinking because of man-made CO2?

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Which countries are affected by the rising water levels and exactly how much have the levels risen by?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Which countries are affected by the rising water levels and exactly how much have the levels risen by?

Every country with an ocean border.

Think I read this a few days ago - average rise has been 3.1mm/yr since 1990.

Places with thawed permafrost is hit by wave action, that land is lost to the sea and river erosion. Gone. Permafrost that becomes unfrozen, not near running water or waves, turns into a mushy, marsh-like, ground, unsuitable for almost any use. https://whrc.org/native-alaskan-villages-threatened-by-climate-change-permafrost-thaw/ says they are relocating their entire village miles inland.

The impacts of climate change are must easier to see in more extreme environments. Those changes are accelerating. Ask any local people who live above 50-60 deg North or South latitude about climate change. They will have an easy to understand story. Or go for a visit and see for yourself. Live in those places often is pretty bare.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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