Rising seas, flooding may put 1.54M people in Manila City at risk by 2030 — report

Gaea Katreena Cabico - Philstar.com
Rising seas, flooding may put 1.54M people in Manila City at risk by 2030 � report
Motorists brave heavy flood at a portion of the España Boulevard in Manila on September 23, 2020.
The STAR / Miguel de Guzman

MANILA, Philippines — Sea level rise and coastal inundation threaten to consume the City of Manila by 2030, affecting a large majority of the Philippine capital’s 1.78 million people, according to a new report from an environmental organization.

According to an analysis by Greenpeace East Asia, a total of 1.54 million people living in the City of Manila and 37.29 square kilometers (km2) of land area could potentially be affected by extreme sea level rise and coastal flooding in 2030 if greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase at the current rate.  

Rising sea level and any subsequent flooding could also put US$ 39.23 billion (P1.9 trillion) of the city’s gross domestic product at risk.

“The potential flood areas, should sea levels rise, include highly populated areas as well as commercial and cultural areas in the city center, high-density residential areas further from the city center, industrial areas, as well as places of government agencies,” the report read.

Landmarks and tourist destinations such as Binondo, Intramuros, Malacañan Palace, and the Jose Rizal National Monument in Luneta Park could potentially be inundated.

A geographical illustration of areas in the City of Manila that could potentially be flooded if the city experiences sea-level rise and coastal flooding in 2030, under the business as usual scenario.

Manila, one of the most congested cities in the world, is especially vulnerable to flooding events compounded by sea level rise.

Studies suggested that sea level in Manila Bay is rising by 13.24 millimeters per year, and Metro Manila is sinking by a rate of 10 centimeters annually as a consequence of rapid extraction of groundwater due to population growth and urbanization.

The Greenpeace report also analyzed the impacts of sea level rise and coastal flooding on other economic centers in Asia that are located on or close to the coast such as Hong Kong, Taipei, Seoul, Tokyo, Jakarta and Bangkok.

Across the seven cities, including Manila, a total of 15 million individuals live on vulnerable land. 

The analysis is one of the first of its kind to use high spatial resolution data to suggest areas of each city that could potentially face inundation. It also takes into account land area, population, and GDP.

The scenario used in the report is business as usual greenhouse gas emissions projections.

2030 projections for the impact of sea level rise and flooding on GDP, population and affected areas of seven cities

Climate action

Lea Guerrero, Greenpeace country director, said the data presented in the report should spur the government to prioritize climate action, which includes strategies to curb greenhouse gas emission.

“The climate emergency is already here, and we need to strengthen disaster management planning and enable communities to cope with climate impacts,” Guerrero said.

“This includes updated infrastructure, establishing early warning systems, decentralizing climate information to enable more people to plan for climate impacts, and strengthening community-based disaster risk reduction,” she added.

As an archipelagic nation in the Pacific, the Philippines is among the countries most impacted by climate-related catastrophes. 

The climate crisis is exacerbating the country’s exposure to more frequent and extreme weather changes, rising temperatures, heavier rainfall and sea level rise.

Under the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, global warming must be limited well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels while pursuing efforts for a tougher ceiling of 1.5°C.

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