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Rising Seas Endangering Urban Centers & Major Ports of the World

written by: vishalseafarer • edited by: KennethSleight • updated: 7/31/2011

A majority of trade and commerce (on which a country's economy greatly depends) is carried out by the major ports of the country. This is why port cities flourish and become mega cities. With the rise in sea levels, these cities are at risk. Are you in one of those cities?

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    Why is the Rise in Sea Level a Risk?

    Right now, the rate of rise in sea level is the fastest it has been in the last 2,000 years and it has been linked to global warming. Global warming has led to the rise in the temperature of the sea and therefore, melting of ice caps and glaciers. The global average of the rise in sea level was 3.1 mm from 1993 to 2003 as opposed to average of 1.7 mm per year in the entire 20th century. This number is increasing with every passing year and is currently standing around 3.5 mm per year.

    It is estimated that more than $28 trillion would be at risk were the sea level to rise by 0.5 meters by 2050.

    rising sea levels   Image Credit - Flickr - Andrea Della Adriano

    If you think that the numbers are just in millimeters and that they aren't important, you are wrong. At the current rate, in the next twenty years, the sea level will rise more than 8 cm (10 cm or more if the rate of rise accelerates) which means that many beaches will be covered by water. The next twenty years will see a further rise and water will invadethe interior of port cities.

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    Major Cities Across the World at Risk from Sea Level Rise

    Since most of the port cities are at the sea level, they are all equally endangered to the rise in sea levels. What differentiates them is how vulnerable they are and what they can do to prevent themselves from unexpected dangers in the future.

    sea level rise   Image Credit: Flickr - Go_Greener_Oz

    North America:

    New York and Los Angeles, situated on the opposite ends of the country are in equal danger with the rise in sea levels. Both the mega cities are taking steps to tackle the problems that they might be facing in the near future. However, they should take cues from cities like Rotterdam that, in spite of being below sea level, has effectively protected itself from floods, not to mention being a busiest port city of Europe.

    The recent devestaion of New Orleans by the flooding associated with Hurricane Katrina serves as a warning of what flooding could do to a major port. The damage wouldn't have been so devastating had the city been prepared for the floods. The lack of preparedness made the incident a major disaster, something that is still fresh in the hearts of many affected ones.

    Besides the major cities of New Youk and Los Angeles, Tampa and Virginia Beach are some of the high risk cities in USA where a lot of people live and the absence of proper emergency alert systems could put many at risk.


    Mumbai (formerly known as Bombay), Kolkatta (formerly known as Calcutta), Dhaka, Tokyo, etc. are some of the major cities in Asia that are at risk due to the rise in sea level.

    Mumbai, India is a mega city. It has a population of around 12 million people with an average of more than 20,000 people per square kilometer. Not only is Mumbai densely populated, it is also home to Bollywood, the Indian counterpart of the famous Hollywood, and home of Dalal Street, equivalent to New York City's Wall Street. With such importance and so much happening in the city, a risk of evacuating will harm the lives of millions of people as well as affecting the country's economy significantly.


    Most of Australia's major cities are ports. Since there is not much development in the interior parts of Australia, urbanization has been happening near the coastal areas in port cities like Sydney, Perth, and Melbourne. Sydney is the most vulnerable of them all because the city is honeycombed with tunnels and low level areas around the foreshores. Thus, the entire city will be in danger in a few years, if the sea levels to rise at the rate at which it is currently rising. Given the huge population of Sydney, the damage and loss could be catastrophic for the country's economy if the people have to move out of that city.


    Rotterdam, Europe's busiest port city lies several meters below sea level. In spite of this, it is a bustling trade center and has effectively managed to build one of the best flood protection systems in the world.


    There are not many major port cites in Africa that will suffer a major setback with the rise in sea levels. Cities like Cape Town (which is mostly endangered by severe storms) and Port Elizabeth are the ones that will be affected. However, these cities are not as vulnerable as Sydney because of the geological structure of the land that they are built on.

    Sea level rise trends offers very good information on where the level of sea is rising significantly. You can check out that site to see how fast the sea level is rising in your port city or the port city nearby you.

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    Preventive Measures Taken to Tackle Rising Sea Levels

    Port cities are always busy as they are the centers of trade and commerce. The rising sea level, although a great threat, can't and should not stop the city making its progress. So scientists, planners, designers, engineers, etc have come up with preventive measures to tackle the rising sea levels.

    • Don't wait until problem has become unmanageable in scale. Tackle it immediately with proactive and positive solution.
    • Proper utilization of money to build long-term and sustainable developments.
    • While solutions are being figured out, they should be designed in such a way that other governments and communities can also take part and use them. This collaboration will not only be helpful to others but new ideas will surface paving way to better solutions.
    • Proper planning while constructing new houses, even when flood defence strategies have been put into effect, as this will save lots of lives in worst-case scenarios.
    • Installation of proper fail-safe warning system will alert people on time and help them evacuate soon, in case of emergencies.
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    1) Planet Save- Sea Level Rise Will Affect Major US Cities

    2) - Sea Level Rise

    3) Pole Shift - Cities at Risk From Rising Sea

    4) East West Center - Cities at Risk

    5) The Watchers: Australia's Sea Level Threats

    6) BBC: Rising Sea Level Hits Major Cities