East Kolkata most vulnerable to climate change: World Bank

Study predicts loss of Rs 10,800 crore in the city by 2050 because of a one-in-100-years flood coupled with climate change impacts

By J Basu
Published: Tuesday 31 January 2012

The eastern fringe of Kolkata, the fastest growing part of the city, is expected to be hit the hardest by climate change-induced impacts, and the poor will be affected the most, according to the findings of a World Bank study submitted recently to the West Bengal government.

The study reiterates an earlier prediction by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) that exposure would increase in future and that by 2070 Kolkata would lead the list of top ten vulnerable cities of world in terms of population exposure. By 2050, almost 40 per cent of city area and 47 per cent of city’s population—close to 25 million—would be affected as a consequence.


The World Bank study, the first of its kind in India, states that nine wards of the city would be most vulnerable to climatic vagaries—vulnerability being assessed on the basis of topography, land use, infrastructure, social parameters and predictions on natural calamities. Manila, Ho Chi Minh City and Bangkok are the other cities where similar studies have been undertaken.
Most vulnerable wards

The predictions have been modelled on the basis of forecast of a 1.2 to 1.8ºC rise in temperature in Kolkata by 2050 along with a fractional increase in rainfall. Also, a sea level rise of 27 cm over the next four decades was considered along with storm surge while calculating the climate-induced impacts on the city. 
Six out of the top nine vulnerable wards of city—14, 57, 58, 63, 66, 67, 108—are located along the bypass which traverses through the entire eastern belt of the city and separates them from the east Kolkata wetlands, a Ramsar site.

Among others, ward 63 largely covers part of the central business district of the city, including Park Street and Camac Street; wards 70 and 84 are towards the west.
All the wards are well populated, but the wards adjoining the bypass are of real concern as they have been growing rapidly as compared to the rest of the city. A number of large residential complexes have mushroomed in the area. East Kolkata has seen widespread, mostly unplanned, real estate activity over the past couple of decades, a major part of it being illegal, involving filling up of wetlands.

Of the most vulnerable wards, six wards in the eastern part and ward 80 suffer from inadequate sewerage and infrastructure facilities and high slum population. Some of these wards also score high on land-use vulnerability because of greater concentration of small scale industries, said the report. The other two wards—63, 74—appear among the most vulnerable because of the topography which makes them highly vulnerable to flood, the report added.

Lack of proper drainage would be east Kolkata’s undoing, the report indicated. According to the prediction, a loss of Rs 10,800 crore would be incurred in Kolkata Municipal Corporation area by 2050 because of of  one in 100 year flood coupled up with climate change impacts. The loss will be mostly by way of damage to residential buildings and properties along with health sector and commerce.

The report points out that “Kolkata and Mumbai in India (are) among the top 10 cities that have high exposure to flooding under the current climate change forecasts.”

Similar prediction for Bangkok proved true

“The report is an eye-opener,” says R P S Kahlon, state environment secretary. He observed that the major findings and suggestions of the report would definitely be reflected in the soon-to-be-finalised state climate action plan.

“The fact that the predictions made through similar study in Bangkok has been found quiet close to reality during the recent flood there, has added credibility to the findings,” said chief environment officer Debal Roy, the nodal person for the project.

The report has been forwarded to the civic authorities.

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