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On the front line of climate change: Five cities battling floods, heat and storms

By Mairi Mackay, George Webster and Teo Kermeliotis
June 15, 2012 -- Updated 1744 GMT (0144 HKT)
Severe storms
Rising temperatures
Poor drainage
Adaptation key in 'declining situation'
Hi-tech adaptations
Tokyo:
Battling the elements

Despite the investment of billions of dollars, Tokyo says its storm defenses can't equal the increasingly intense rain over the past decade. And so one of the world's wealthiest cities continues to succumb to flood disasters -- taking lives, destroying property and bringing transport to a standstill.

City stats

CITY
POPULATION
35.53 million

GROSS DOMESTIC
PRODUCT
$1,191 billion

GREENHOUSE GAS
EMISSIONS/CAPITA
4.9 METRIC TONNES (EST)

EXTREME WEATHER
THREAT
SEVERE STORMS

Source: World Bank and CDP Cities

Heavy rainfall increasing

A study from 117 weather stations dotted around Tokyo shows that in recent years there's been an increase in the frequency of highly localized, intense rainfall.

Source: Tokyo Metropolitan Construction Bureau Flood Records



Development blocks natural flood defense

Extensive urbanization in Tokyo has covered the land in roads, pavements and buildings, reducing natural water storage capacity. During heavy rainfall, rapid runoff of water into the rivers increases the risk of flooding.

In the low-lying Kanda River Basin, urbanization has increased by more than a third in just 60 years. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government reports that in East Tokyo 1.5 million people are living under the high-tide level. While Tokyo is continuing to invest in sophisticated stormwater storage facilities, the city government says heavy rains that exceed the current protection level have been increasing in recent years. The city still experiences flood disasters on a yearly basis.


Adaptation key in a 'declining situation'

Although we have been actively promoting mitigation methods, we think it is also important to approach adaptation considering such a declining situation. 

Yuko Nishida, Policy Planning Division, Bureau of Environment


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