An introduction to the issues surrounding increasing floods around the world and what can be done about them.
Global climate change is causing increasingly unpredictable rainfall patterns around most of the world and this in turn is contributing to the floods and droughts, mudslides and water-borne diseases causing so much damage and misery. Since patterns have changed, previous methods used to control seasonal flows of water are less likely to be effective than they were in the past – indeed, some countries may now be facing flood problems when they had no such problems before. So, what if anything can countries do about it?
The first thing to consider is that the power of the weather, of nature, is or can be uncontrollable – so there may be a limit to what may be achieved. It may well be that we, the people of the world, will have to accept that we have to accept hundreds or thousands of additional deaths per year, at least until new technological breakthroughs provide some relief currently unimaginable. Under current political conditions, it seems almost impossible to imagine that sufficient reduction is carbon emissions will take place to prevent at least a 2 degree average rise in temperature.
More positively, there is a fair amount of technical improvements that can be made, with respect to building dykes, tunnels, monkey cheeks and so on – monkey cheeks are grooved channels that can hold additional water overflowing from rivers on a temporary basis. This calls for engineers to make proper plans and then the appropriate amount of investment in infrastructure be made. There will be problems in a number of countries when the rivers affected pass through or close to urban areas and, to dig the new measures, will require resettlement (temporarily or permanently) and this is a process that has in recent history been handled badly. Unregistered residents have been comparatively easy for officials to move away covertly, often with violence. The diffusion of internet technology and cheap communications has reduced the ability of states to do this but there are still countries where it takes place.
Looking further into the future, it may be necessary to plan the movement of urban settlements to areas less badly affected by emergent flood problems. Might it be possible one day to have houses or apartment blocks that can be shielded from deluge (the model is Stargate Atlantis) or moved out of the way? Are there different ways of rerouting water into the air or under the ground? These are issues far from possible at present but there are people working on such ideas and it is necessary that they do so.