Over 1.4 billion people are directly exposed to significant flood risk, according to the policy research working paper released by the World Bank recently. All are directly exposed to flood depths of over 0.15 meter, which pose a significant risk to lives, especially of vulnerable populations.
The paper titled “People in Harm’s Way: Flood Exposure and Poverty in 189 Countries,” published by the World Bank Climate Change Group and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery as part of its Poverty and Shared Prosperity Report, provides a global estimate of the number of people who face the risk of intense fluvial, pluvial or coastal flooding.
“Flood is among the most prevalent natural hazards affecting people around the world,” said Jun Rentschler, one of the authors from the World Bank Climate Change Group.
“While flood risks are global, East and South Asia stand out. Flood risks are a near-universal threat, affecting people in all countries covered in this study – albeit at different scales,” shared by co-author Melda Salhab from the World Bank Climate Change Group and the Center for Advanced Spatial Analysis, University College London in the United Kingdom.
The paper revealed that about 1.36 billion are located in South and East Asia where China and India account for over a third of the global exposure with 329 million and 225 million of their people, respectively, are exposed.
The Philippines, unfortunately, ranks eighth among the top 10 countries whose 29.1 million of its people are exposed to significant flood risk. The number represents 27.7 percent of its national population.
Aside from China, India, and the Philippines, completing the top 10 countries include Indonesia (76 million), Pakistan (71.8 million), Bangladesh (51.9 million), Vietnam (45.5 million), Nigeria (38.8 million), Egypt (28.9 million) and Japan (27.4 million).
Floods and their common types
A flood is a state in which water temporarily enters and covers land where it normally doesn’t. This water comes from the sea, lakes, rivers, canals or sewers.
Considered as the most common and most destructive among natural hazards, floods bring misery. It can cause loss of life and often disrupts our daily lives – water can come inside our houses, drinking water gets interrupted, electricity may break down, roads can be blocked, and people cannot perform their regular activity like going to work or school.
Weather events in the last 30 days like Typhoon ”Ulysess” – a powerful and deadly Category 4-equivalent typhoon – and “Vicky” brought intense rainfall that caused massive flooding. A total of 221 incidents of floods were recorded, according to the updates of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC). Flood causes enormous impacts on our economy and natural environment.
Types of floods
The common types of flood are coastal, flash, fluvial and pluvial.
Flash flood is caused by extreme rainfall events or the sudden release of water over a short period of time. It can very quickly and produces raging torrents of water that move with great speed. It can also occur from a sudden release of water from a levee or damage to a dam.
Coastal flood is the inundation of land areas along the coast by seawater. Common causes of coastal flooding are high tide, tsunamis and storm surge.
A fluvial, or river flood, occurs when the water level in a river, lake or stream rises and overflows onto the surrounding banks, shores, and neighboring land.
A pluvial, or surface water flood, occurs when heavy rainfall creates a flood independent of an overflowing water body.
The extent of floods’ impacts
Multiple studies and reports have narrated the extent of the impacts of the flood.
One of these reports includes “The Human Cost of Disasters – An overview of the last 20 years 2000-2019,” a publication of the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, which revealed that floods accounted for 44 percent of all disasters from 2000 to 2019. It affected 1.65 billion people worldwide and the most common type of event with a total of 3,254 over 20 years.
Other disaster events include storm (28 percent, 2,043 events), earthquake (8 percent, 552 events), extreme temperature (6 percent, 432 events), landslide (5 percent, 376 events), drought (5 percent, 338 events), wildfire (3 percent, 238 events), volcanic activity (1 percent, 102 events), and mass movement (less than 1 percent, 13 events).
Floods have the highest impacts in Asia, as the continent experienced 41 percent of all flooding events and with a total of 1.5 billion people affected, accounting for 93 percent of people affected by floods worldwide, the report claimed.
Although floods accounted for almost half of the disaster events and have the most number of affected people worldwide, it is only responsible for 9% of the total deaths or 104,614 deaths over 20 years.
Another report titled “Counting the cost 2020: A Year of Climate Breakdown”, a publication of Christian Aid, showed that four of the top 10 most expensive disasters in 2020 are flooding events.
These four flooding events which happened in China, India, Japan, and Pakistan have estimated damage amounting to $50 billion and have killed 2,837. Millions of people are affected.
In the Philippines, based on the data gathered from the NDRRMC, the top 10 costliest typhoons that brought massive flooding happened in the last 13 years (2008-2020).
These ten costliest typhoons have estimated damage of P322 billion. Two recent typhoons, “Rolly” and “Ulysses,” with a combined estimated damage of P40 billion are included.
Scientific studies suggest that, as a result of climate change, certain areas around the world will experience an increase in flood events. Furthermore, the people in need of protection are expected to increase as the global population in disaster-prone regions increases.
The author is the executive director of the Young Environmental Forum and a Non-Resident Fellow of Stratbase ADR Institute. He completed his climate change and development course at the University of East Anglia (United Kingdom) and an executive program on sustainability leadership at Yale University (USA). You can email him at email@example.com.