This is a question that we come across seldom. Vizag, the City of Destiny is blessed with a beautiful way of life and it rarely brought us to a situation where we had to think of this one question – What will happen to Vizag? Probably the only time we Vizagites might have thought of this is when we were devastated by the Hudhud Cyclone. In this era of fast paced development and enhanced understanding of Climate Change and its consequences, cities across the world are designing strategies to make their cities climate resilient. Now that Vizag is also heading in the direction of becoming a smart city, let us ask this question – What will happen to Vizag, if the climate change predictions become true?
What will happen to Vizag, if the growing trend of carbon emissions remains the same?
The exploitation of fossil fuels is still continuing at a fast pace all across the world including India. Using renewable energy sources like sun and wind is indeed the best alternative we have. The good thing is renewable energy is picking up, but will it reach a pace which will reduce our carbon emissions considerably? Failing which, the increased carbon dioxide levels in atmosphere will lead to increase in global temperatures, which will result in intensified storms and cyclones on one hand and gradual sea level rise because of the melting ice sheets of Arctic and Antarctic on the other.
Intensified storms and cyclones
Many experts believe that having hotspots in atmosphere will pull the cyclonic storms towards it and will also intensify the cyclones. This is what might have happened with the Hudhud Cyclone. Hudhud which initially was predicted to be a level 3 cyclone intensified and became a level 5 cyclone. Vizagites who experiences Hudhud can never ever forget the feeling of wheezing sounds and helplessness. The facts about the Hudhud Cyclone are not yet fully understood, but creation of a Hotspot over Vizag because of the heat trapped on the city because of pollution might be one of the reasons for its intensification. Thankfully, we didn’t have much rainfall those two days. Else the death toll and property damage must have gone far beyond what we had. This is also something we should be prepared for in the coming years. With the intensification of storms and cyclones across the world because of Climate Change, we should develop plans which will make our city resilient and be prepared for such natural calamities. This is something similar to how Japanese build their houses Earth Quake resistant.
Uneven rainfall and seasons
Being an urban city, we might think Vizag might not have much do with rainfall. Moreover we get our water supply from nearby reservoirs and rivers. So, why bother about it? But, that would be a very bad assumption. With the increasing population of the city and a number of sky scrapers coming up in Vizag, the water availability is going to become a serious concern over the coming years. Vizag will have water stress in the coming years. Just a few years back, areas like Lawsons Bay, Allipuram, Pedawaltair had depleted ground water levels and people has to get water through tankers. Thankfully for the last 2-3 years we are having good amount of rainfall. But, the situation might not last for long. The climate change prediction says that we might have either huge rainfall or very little rainfall. We have to be prepared for either situation. First and foremost, whatever be the rainfall we should be in a position to tap and percolate as much rainwater into our ground water table. This is only possible if we together start implementing rainwater harvesting at our homes, offices, public spaces and government buildings. Even community level rainwater harvesting can be done. When it comes to the extremes, we have to make our city resilient to high rainfall, thus design and make changes in city such that even if we have a very huge rainfall, none of the low lying areas get waterlogged. One best example of this Gnanapuram, it gets water logged even for small rains. Coming to the other extreme, we should make sure that we have secured water supply even in case we have a drought.
Increasing sea levels.
Coastal erosion has already made news multiple times in Vizag in the last 2 years. There was a sense of urgency for solution when the news was all over media. Now it has gone silent. Some Vizagites are still waiting to see what permanent solution the government authorities will be coming up with. When it comes to coastal erosion, the approach of the authorities so far has been to find a solution only after we face a problem. We have to be proactive and should design development models which included the threats the city might face in the future. The increase in global atmospheric CO2 levels have increased global temperatures over the last few decades and this is resulting in melting of the ice sheets in Artic as well as Antarctica. The result is increasing sea levels. It is predicted that if all the ice sheets in Arctic and Antarctica will melt, the sea levels will rise by not 5-6 meters, but by more than 65 meters. This might not be something that will happen immediately, but as good citizens can we be proactive, think long term and plan our development keeping facts like these also in view? That would make the future much safer for at least the coming generations.
Kursura Submarine Museum Inundated by Sea – Digital Creation. © S Ravi Kanth Reddy (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)
Here is a video that estimates the inundation of India with increasing sea levels
Here is what will happen to areas in and around Vizag
While each and every Vizagite knows how polluted Vizag’s air is, the concern shown by the government authorities on this aspect is very little. The worst pollution we are facing is the coal dust released from the port area. While Supreme Court has given order in the early 2000s to wet the roads on a daily basis to avoid the coal dispersal, this has helped just a little bit. The main culprit of the coal dust carpet over Vizag is because of the open dumping being followed by the port management. Instead if they can be proactive and carry out dumping as per regulations and within a closed dome structure, much of the pollution from port can be cut off. This is something that has to be enforced by the government. We citizens should make sure that our leaders give importance to such things and make things happen. Vizag has always been a beautiful city. We have to give a better Vizag to our coming generations and that is only possible if each of us be proactive and takes Vizag towards a green, clean and sustainable future. It is with in our hands to continue what we are doing and give an unsafe, polluted, choking, susceptible Vizag or to respond, be proactive and mould Vizag into a climate resilient sustainable smart city.