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Kolkata – Edging towards a climate change disaster?

Howrah Bridge
I began my career working in the regional office of a computer firm in Kolkata. The city went under the name Calcutta then. It was my first exposure to a mega city. I was enchanted by the slow moving trams, the languorous coffee shops, the intellectual climate, historical buildings, museums, the newly commissioned underground metro rail, convoluted cul-de-sacs, the awesome Howrah Bridge, Botanical Garden, I could go on. The city had an old world charm which haunted me. From a professional standpoint I disliked the city, I thought it lacked energy. But Kolkata exerted an insidious spell, gradually wrapping me in a sense of repose, of indolence. It had a charm unlike the other cities I have lived in, which can be best described as a sense of peace, of settling down, of dusk. My memories of Kolkata are still vivid and I remember those days with a sense of nostalgia, a kind of forlorn reminiscence.

So, when I came across the WWF report, Mega-Stress for Mega-Cities, featuring climate change consequences for Kolkata, it immediately caught my attention. The report analyzed 11 major Asian cities which are in the “front-line of climate change impacts”. Kolkata is ranked third on the overall vulnerability assessment. Situated at the estuary of Hoogly River on the Bay of Bengal, Kolkata, with more than 15 million people, is one of the most densely populated coastal cities of India. Being a low lying area, the city is extremely susceptible to sea level rise and storm surges which could inundate large stretches of it. It is also at risk of salt water incursion due to sea level rise and ground subsidence. Over-exploitation of ground water in and around Kolkata combined with sea water incursion has rendered subsurface ground water saline. Altered precipitation patterns and intense rainfall are leading to water run-off. Ground water is not enriched since rainwater no longer seeps underground. Alternate spells of drought and floods are predicted to lead to water scarcity and food insecurity. According to the report, the city also has a low adaptive capability to endure the impact of climate change. Sundarbans, the salt resistant mangrove forest and home to the Royal Bengal Tiger acts as a flood barrier protecting the inhabitants of Kolkata from cyclones and storm fronts. However, this UNESCO world heritage site is also under threat from sea level rise, subsidence, erosion, cyclones and human activity.

kolkata school children picSo, does all this doomsday prediction likely to make Bengali an endangered species. Gosh! No. They are determined to thrive and proliferate. Awareness of vulnerability of the city is percolating into the consciousness of Kolkatans. Recently, school children from Kolkata participated in the international day of climate action organized by “350“, the international campaign to unite the world in finding solutions to climate change crisis(350 stands for 350 parts per million, the safe upper level of atmospheric CO2).

That Kolkata will survive the onslaught of climate change cataclysms is beyond doubt. However, if actions recommended in the report are implemented the city would be in a much better position to weather the storm when in arrives. Viva Kolkata
Download Mega-Stress for Megacities report here: Link


Categories: Planetwatch
  1. ginocolada
    November 27, 2009 at 6:18 pm

    Oh my god, what a pullution! That cannot be!
    We must stop driving cars!

    Is there any try to find the truth in you?


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