Battle against rising tides: How 5 cities are tackling rising sea levels

Breakwaters have been placed about 2km from North Jakarta's shores to help coastal residents, many of whom are traditional fishermen or poor families.
Breakwaters have been placed about 2km from North Jakarta's shores to help coastal residents, many of whom are traditional fishermen or poor families.ST PHOTO: WAHYUDI SOERIAATMADJA

In his National Day Rally speech, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said Singapore is considering extending its shorelines and building polders as a means of adapting to rising sea levels. The Straits Times looks at five other cities where rising sea levels and flooding are an issue and the adaptation measures being considered.

Jakarta

Two weeks ago, Ms Cin Hua, a resident of Kerang Hijau village in North Jakarta, almost lost her granddaughter to a flood caused by seawater overflowing onto land.

"Luckily, I can swim. She could have drowned," said Ms Cin, a 65-year-old shrimp seller who was also caught in the flood.

Low-lying coastal plains such as those at Kerang Hijau village are vulnerable to storm surges, coastal erosion and flooding.

In Indonesia, even cities like Jakarta have to save themselves from the curse of climate change, which has caused global sea levels to rise over the past century.

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Mumbai

Every time Mumbai floods, the roads become rivers, train services come to a halt, and there is a citywide power shutdown. This has happened nearly every year in the past decade, with dozens having lost their lives in swirling waters.

Home to nearly 22 million people, the financial capital of India is demanding more durable fixes from its policymakers.


Children wading through a flooded street in Mumbai earlier this month. Home to nearly 22 million people, the financial capital of India is demanding more durable fixes to its flooding problem from policymakers. PHOTO: AP

While floods often occur during the rainy season which starts in June, even normal levels of rain are trapped by excessive construction and crumbling drainage systems that cannot deal with the flow.

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New York


Parts of Lower Manhattan in New York City are under threat from rising sea levels. In a move to counter the threat, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio in March unveiled a US$10 billion (S$13.9 billion) plan to extend Manhattan's shoreline two blocks into the East River. PHOTO: AFP

The Wall Street bankers who walk to their offices in the gleaming skyscrapers of New York may not want to be there in 2100.

 

By the turn of the century, higher tides caused by sea-level rises could submerge portions of Lower Manhattan's edge by up to 90cm a day, leaving any pedestrian still there waist-deep in water.

Coastal storms and hurricanes, which are likely to become more frequent, would hit even worse.

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Shanghai


The Huangpu River in Shanghai. A deep-water drainage system that upgrades its flood defences will be completed next year. PHOTO: AFP

The fight against rising waters is an existential one for China's economic heart of Shanghai.

 

The megacity's location on the Yangtze River Delta - straddling the Yellow and the East China seas - is what propelled it to become the world's busiest container port and a global financial hub.

But its low-lying geography, just 4m above sea level, has also made it uniquely vulnerable to rising sea levels and periodic flooding.

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Penang


Flooding in George Town, Penang, in September 2017. Flood mitigation is now a pressing issue for the Malaysian state. PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

The water level was chest high and furniture in many homes was wrecked, while large trees were uprooted by strong winds and torrential rain.

 

A week of flash floods in November 2017 saw thousands of people displaced in Penang.

Flood mitigation has become a pressing issue for the state, which suffered more than 110 flash floods between 2013 and October 2017.

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