WRI warns that flooding could aggravate coronavirus crisis in South and Southeast Asia and Africa, urging for increased investment globally in flood prevention
The number of people annually impacted by coastal and river flooding is expected to double from 72 million to 147 million over the next 10 years, research by influential think tank the World Resources Institute has warned.
Floods cost the global economy an estimated $45.9bn and killed nearly 4,500 people worldwide in 2019, and their impact could be even higher this year, the new report warned, noting that the upcoming flood season could aggravate the coronavirus crisis in South and Southeast Asia and Africa.
The think tank released the findings today as it launched an upgrade to its Aqueduct Floods online flood measurement tool that will see it include coastal glood data for the first time.
Betsy Otto, director of WRI's Global Water Programme, warned that flooding, which can cause outbreaks in waterborne diseases and seriously undermine sanitation facilities, will "add to the misery" already being caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
"Floods are a threat multiplier that could worsen the public health and economic impacts we're seeing from Covid-19," she said. "At a time when countries are struggling with the impacts of the pandemic, natural disasters like flooding threaten the lives and livelihoods of people worldwide, especially vulnerable populations living in crowded urban dwellings."
Flood impacts, which have inflicted $1tr in losses globally since 1980, are being made worse by ballooning populations, climate change, and land sinkage from the overuse of groundwater, the WRI warned. Land sinkage alone is set to put an additional two million people at risk of coastal flooding by 2030, it said.
Otto urged countries seeking to boost economic growth to recover from the crisis to invest in flood resilient infrastructure and nature-based flood prevention solutions. These solutions can include hard infrastructure like levees and dykes, as well as investing in natural infrastructure such as coastal mangroves and forests in watersheds around cities.
The benefits of flood protection - which also include implementing appropriate insurance and development policies and improving groundwater management approaches - are vast, according to the findings.
The WRI estimates that every $1 spent on flood protection infrastructure can in India will result in $248 in avoided damages and reduce the likelihood of areas being flooded by half, from four per cent to two per cent. In Bangladesh, $1 spent on flood protection results in $123 in avoided damages and reduce the likelihood of floods occurring from a huge 20 per cent to four per cent.
The report also notes that without action coastal flooding caused by climate change will impact larger populations in South and Southeast Asia than the rest of the world combined and that by 2030, development along coastlines will be the leading driver of increased coastal flood risk to populations.
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