From Houston to India, floods take thousands of lives

Floods everywhere, we must act

Published in Climate Action by

Warning: the video contains shocking imagery

Harvey in Texas, mud slides in Sierra Leone, Mumbai paralysed by floods, extreme monsoons and floodings in Nepal and Bangladesh; do we need to say more? Climate change is here and we need to adapt to its consequences quickly. All the more reason to join the WDCD Climate Action Challenge.

The good news is that climate models predict a reduction of the total number of hurricanes in the North-Atlantic Ocean, because climate change will stabilize the atmosphere, according to the Dutch climate institute (KNMI). However, the hurricanes that occur will be heavier than before due to the available energy in a warmer climate.

So, when it rains, it will pour, as it does now in Houston, Texas. Locally, already 1300 mm of rain has fallen there, a new rainfall record. The rains are caused by a sea water temperature of 30 degrees, around 1,5 degrees higher than normal. With warm air capable of absorbing more water damp, huge amounts of water are carried land inwards.

South East Asia

In India, Nepal and Bangladesh already more than 1,000 people were killed and millions were forced to flee their homes in recent weeks following heavy monsoon rains. It’s the regions worst monsoon disaster in recent years, The Guardian reports. In Mumbai, things are worsened by unabated construction on floodplains and coastal areas, as well as storm-water drains and waterways clogged by plastic garbage.

Seasonal monsoon rains are normal here, as are the floods and landslides that go along with them. And every year people die and loose property between July and September. That’s normal too, unfortunately. But this year already 1,000 people have died and millions have been displaced.

700.000 homes destroyed

In Bangladesh more than 700.000 homes have been destroyed and at least 140 people lost their lives. On top of that, so much farmland has been ruined that long term food insecurity is expected by UN’s World Food Program, according to NPR radio.

In Nepal, at least 143 people died and more than 460.000 people had to leave their homes. In India the UN estimates that 32 million people are affected by the monsoon, with official death tolls ranging between 726 and 850 people. Some 2,000 relief camps have been established.

Sierra Leone

The death toll from mud slides caused by torrential rainfall in Sierra Leone has mounted to 1,000 people too, Time reports. ‘Some critics accuse Sierra Leone’s government of failing to learn from past disasters in Freetown,’ Time writes, ‘where many poor areas are near sea level and lack good drainage. The capital is also plagued by unregulated construction on its hillsides.’ Here too, rainfall is an annual threat to the region, but normally not on this scale.

Help where you can

We will not suggest that designers can solve all this misery. What we need first of all is decisive government action. But design in all its forms, from urban and landscape planning and resilient architecture to product and service design, can certainly help enhance the effectiveness of such actions. WDCD, together with IKEA Foundation and Autodesk Foundation, initiated the Climate Action Challenge to show them what you’ve got. Enter your ideas, big and small, existing and new, before 24 September. We’ve no time to lose.

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