Shankar Raj

Mumbai is in the

news every monsoon when India’s financial capital sinks up to its nose. The

city’s resilience and the capability of bouncing back has been lauded. But this

may not last long.

A new study has

shown that vast swaths of land in Mumbai would go under water due to rising

seas by 2050. Mumbai is not just the only city that would be swallowed by

rising seas which could affect three times more people by 2050 than previously

thought.

The new projections

suggest that much of Mumbai, India’s financial power horse and one of the

largest cities in the world, is at risk of being wiped out. Built on what was

once a series of islands, the city’s historic downtown core is particularly

vulnerable, according to the research.

Downtown Mumbai

is the hub of India’s financial power. And the area is thickly populated too.

The research was

produced by Climate Central, a science organisation based in New Jersey, and

published in the journal Nature Communications. The projections don’t account

for future population growth or land lost to coastal erosion.

Rising seas is

the new threat that is poised to erase some of the world’s great coastal

cities.

The authors of a

paper published Tuesday developed a more accurate way of calculating land

elevation based on satellite readings, a standard way of estimating the effects

of sea level rise over large areas. The team found that the previous numbers

were far too optimistic. The new research shows that some 150 million people

are now living on land that will be below the high-tide line by mid-century.

Standard

elevation measurements using satellites struggle to differentiate the true

ground level from the tops of trees or buildings, said Scott A. Kulp, a

researcher at Climate Central and one of the paper’s authors. So he and

Benjamin Strauss, Climate Central’s chief executive, used artificial

intelligence to determine the error rate and correct for it.

The study shows

that Southern Vietnam could all but disappear. More than 20 million people in

Vietnam, almost one-quarter of the population, live on land that will be

inundated.

Much of Ho Chi

Minh City, the nation’s economic centre, would disappear with it,

In Thailand,

more than 10 percent of citizens now live on land that is likely to be

inundated by 2050, compared with just 1 percent according to the earlier

technique. The political and commercial capital, Bangkok, is particularly imperilled.

In Shanghai, one

of Asia’s most important economic engines, water threatens to consume the heart

of the city and many other cities around it.

The

disappearance of cultural heritage could bring its own kind of devastation.

Alexandria, Egypt, founded by Alexander the Great around 330 B.C., could be

lost to rising waters.

In other places,

the migration caused by rising seas could trigger or exacerbate regional

conflicts.

Basra, the

second-largest city in Iraq, could be mostly underwater by 2050. If that

happens, the effects could be felt well beyond Iraq’s borders, according to

John Castellaw, a retired Marine Corps lieutenant general who was chief of

staff for United States Central Command during the Iraq War.

Further loss of

land to rising waters there “threatens to drive further social and political

instability in the region, which could reignite armed conflict and increase the

likelihood of terrorism,” said General Castellaw, who is now on the advisory

board of the Center for Climate and Security, a research and advocacy group in

Washington.

“So this is far

more than an environmental problem. It’s a humanitarian, security and possibly

military problem too,” he said.

But then, lot is

issues are dependent on environment.

Said Dina

Ionesco of the International Organization for Migration, an intergovernmental

group that coordinates action on migrants and development: “Overall, the

research shows that countries should start preparing now for more citizens to

relocate internally. We’ve been trying to ring the alarm bells. We know that

it’s coming. There is little modern precedent for this scale of population

movement”.