The tale of three sinking cities 

The title might seem like I’m about to tell a fictional story, but sinking cities are unfortunately a reality. As you may already know, increasing global temperature causes sea levels to rise because of melting ice sheets. The global average of sea level rise may reach 0.98 m by 2100, impacting approximately 360 million people living on land. However, the impact is not equally distributed across the globe as different regions may have certain local conditions that make sea level rise mild or worse. We also do not need to wait until 2100 to see the impact of sea level rise. Even today sea level rise has devastated some coastal cities, including these three cases. 

Photo by Nastya Dulhiier on Unsplash

Jakarta, Indonesia

Sinking at an average rate of 1 to 15 cm a year, this megacity is known as the world’s fastest sinking city. Jakarta is the capital city of Indonesia with more than 10 million inhabitants. This densely populated city is particularly prone to flooding due to lack of green open space and high precipitation. Adding climate change into the equation just worsen the situation by inundating the near-cost area. It is estimated that 95% of the northern part of Jakarta where it is closest to the coast would be inundated by 2050.

The reason why Jakarta sinks at such a high rate is not only because of rising sea level, but also due to land subsidence. Jakarta relies heavily on groundwater for their non-drinking water supply. Pumping large amounts of water from the ground consequently lowers the land and worsening the rate of sinking. Currently, Jakarta sinks at a rate two times higher than the global average for coastal megacities. 

Venice, Italy

Famously known as the ‘floating city’, Venice is surrounded by canals that form hundreds of small islands within the city. However, the formation that makes Venice unique and beautiful, is also risking the city to sink. Similar to the case in Jakarta, sea level rise and land subsidence exacerbate Venice’s flooding problem. Having most of the city being surrounded by water added with pumping of groundwater makes the city vulnerable to rising sea levels. 

Another potential factor unique to the tale of this sinking city is tourism. Large cruise ships are coming into the Venetian lagoon, bringing in thousands of tourists every day. These ships could induce erosion and disturb the foundation of the city, making the city prone to flooding. In response to this, there has been pressure to limit the number of ships docking in the waters of venice. Recently, a new regulation was made that only allows cruise ships to dock at the industrial port rather than the historic centre to mitigate the problem. 

Rotterdam, The Netherlands

Most of Rotterdam is situated below sea level and it is slowly sinking. The Netherlands as a nation has alway been faced with risk of flooding and the country successfully implemented sophisticated flood control mechanisms such as dikes and pumps. In tackling the impact of climate change, Rotterdam also relies on these flood protection infrastructures. The Maeslantkering, Rotterdam’s massive floodgate is one of the city’s frontier to deal with surging sea level and storms. Each arm of the gate is the size of an Eiffel tower, with the storm surge barriers reaching 21 metre high. Another infrastructure used in Rotterdam are dikes. But Rotterdam’s dike serves more than flood protection, but also a business district. The area is called Dakpark, where it has a shopping centre and a rooftop park, which blend very well with the surrounding neighbourhood.

Along with having modern flood control infrastructures, there are other measures such as giving out boats to people and teaching children to swim with clothes on as part of Rotterdam’s adaptation measure. Having years of experience of preventing seawater from entering the city, Rotterdam seems to know how to be resilient.

One Response to “The tale of three sinking cities ”

  1. Sean Lamb says:

    I found it very interesting to learn about the effect climate change is having on these cities. The structure of the piece was well formed and logical. I also found the title attention grabbing and suited the piece very well.