Magazine article Geographical

Cities at Risk: Coastal Erosion, Saltwater Intrusion into Freshwater Supplies and Coastal Storms All Combine to Threaten Coastal Areas-Often Regions of High Population Growth and Intensive Economic Development

Magazine article Geographical

Cities at Risk: Coastal Erosion, Saltwater Intrusion into Freshwater Supplies and Coastal Storms All Combine to Threaten Coastal Areas-Often Regions of High Population Growth and Intensive Economic Development

Article excerpt

Around 40 per cent of the world's population lives less than 100 kilometres from the coast--within reach of severe coastal storms. About 100 million people live less than one metre above mean sea level. More people are gravitating to these areas of rapidly growing economic development, but coastal erosion, rising sea levels, saltwater contamination and potentially more powerful storms are expected to put these already threatened environments under increasing stress.

Some of these consequences of climate change, such as the inundation of large delta areas, are potentially catastrophic. Others, such as the movement of salt water upstream into freshwater rivers, will take their toll more slowly, as drinking and irrigation water becomes too saline, river water becomes too corrosive to use in cooling in industrial processes and power plants, and changing coastal habitats affect wildlife.

While all coastal cities face such threats, the impact on those with more than ten million inhabitants will be most substantial. Water and sanitation systems may be placed under unbearable strain and millions of poor people in shanty towns on the fringes of the cities may be at even greater risk from disease. Port facilities may no longer be viable and government and financial services may be severely damaged, affecting the administration and economy of the entire country.

* Reproduced from The Atlas of Climate Change by Kirstin Dow and Thomas E Downing (Earthscan 2005) Copyright [c] Myriad Editions Limited/ www. …

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