Mumbai is not going to be submerged: minister

Mumbai would not be submerged in 2050 due to increased flooding owing to climate change, Earth Sciences Minister Harsh Vardhan said on Tuesday. He was responding to queries in the Rajya Sabha on a study that claimed that by 2040-50, a major part of Mumbai would be inundated annually due to high tide.

Mr. Vardhan said India’s scientists had been recording sea level rise in the country since 1876 and computed the average sea level rise to be 3.3 cm by 2050. “Whatever we are saying is based on the report of our own scientists and our own institutions that are producing the data, which are rated the best in the whole world by everyone. There is no reason to worry about Mumbai. Whatever data I have given are the long-term data. Mumbai is not going to be submerged,” he said.

In October, a study by U.S.-based organisation Climate Central said the number of Indians who were likely to be affected by rising sea levels may have been underestimated by as much as 88%. In India, 36 million people would face annual flooding by 2050 and 44 million by 2100 if emissions continued to rise unabated. Nearly 21 million — and not 2.8 million — were expected to be living below the High Tide Line, the boundary that marks the farthest to which the sea reaches into the land at high tide.

The study appeared in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Nature Communications and employs a new software called CoastalDEM. It claimed that previous satellite-based estimates of coastal erosion had overestimated the elevation of the coasts.

However, independent scientists have countered Climate Central’s analysis., saying it extrapolated ground-level data from the US onto India and, therefore, could be exaggerating the extent of flooding.

In his response, Mr. Varadhan, however, conceded that while the rise in sea level would not immediately impact the coasts, it could exacerbate the impacts of coastal hazards such as storm surge, tsunami, coastal flooding, high waves and coastal erosion in the low-lying coastal areas.

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