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5 of the world’s most innovative solutions to rising sea levels

Rotterdam's floodgates

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As ice caps melt and sea levels rise, coastal areas worldwide are being struck by extreme floods. According to the European Government Agency, sea levels have been rising at a rate of 3 millimetres every year since 1993. This is a long-term hazard and there is no universal consensus about how to fix it. However, there are certain parts of the world actively fighting back against rising sea levels.

Rotterdam’s floodgates

The Port of Rotterdam is the largest port in the world. It’s among the fastest, most advanced terminals, but it’s in danger of flooding. To keep the port flood-free, the Netherlands has installed state-of-the-art floodgates called the Maeslantkering. They are giant storm surge barriers that span across the mouth of the River Scheuer. It opened in 1997 and has since become a popular tourist attraction. Measuring 22m tall and 210m long, it is one of the largest moving structures in the world. A supercomputer controls the gates, which open and close to let ships pass through.

Surat’s flood warning systems

Surat, India has constantly faced floods. In 2006, an extreme flood inundated up to 75% of the city. In the last two decades, the damage caused by the floods has increased due to the growth of the city’s infrastructure. Even after the Ukai dam was constructed across the Tapti River, the floods continued to cost the city. In a bid to address the problem, consulting firm TARU Leading Edge and Surat Municipal Corporation Narmada Water developed a flood warning system. Completed in 2013, the system tracks weather conditions and tests the potential effects of climate change to help prepare for floods in the future.  

Da Nang’s flood-resistant housing

Although it’s a popular holiday destination, Vietnam’s De Nang city faces frequent floods and storms. In 2011, a flood resistant housing programme was approved. Social and Environmental Transition partnered with Rockefeller Foundation’s Climate Change Coordination office, to build homes that can withstand typhoons, floods, and storms. The program has proven successful, as the majority of these storm-resistant houses were not damaged during the deadly Nuri Typhoon in 2013.

Thailand’s floating homes

The amphibious houses of Ban Sang Village, Thailand sit on steel pontoons filled with Styrofoam, which lifts the structure three meters off the ground. This is one-way architects and developers in Thailand are trying to provide flood-proof homes. The 2.8 million-baht (£63,000) building was built over a deep trench that can be flooded. It was completed in 2013 for Thailand’s National Housing Authority. Floating houses could be a great option for battling rising sea levels, but the cost will be a stumbling block for many families and governments.

Semarang’s flood forecasting system

The flood forecasting system in the Indonesian port city of Semarang focuses on which areas of the city are most in danger of flooding. It also figures out where prevention strategies are most effective, and the ideal places to build flood shelters. 50% more of Semarang’s homes have been projected to be in flood-prone areas by 2050. Mercy Corps, a global humanitarian organisation is developing the system, in collaboration with a city-based developmental planning team.

It’s clear some places are being hit harder by floods, but the bottom line is climate change affects the whole globe. If sea levels continue to rise, floods might become more common in areas that are traditionally less-prone. Human activity is worsening the problem. If we’re to avoid further harm to our cities, we must take advantage of methods already in place and acknowledge that serious change needs to occur.

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