Growing Slums Are Making Floods Deadlier

Word Bank researchers say that wealthy cities are becoming more resilient to flooding while poor urban slums are drowning.

Growing Slums Are Making Floods Deadlier
Photo by Jordan Opel / Unsplash

As global warming and resulting inundating rainfall events increase, many of the word’s largest cities are adapting despite increased flood events and higher population growth.

But a new report by US and researchers, along with the World Bank, says that the benefits are not equally distributed and that flood risk is becoming deadlier for the world’s expanding metropolitan adjacent slums.

“A large proportion of the urban population in poorer nations lives in slum settlements. These countries are also seeing more growth in settlements in flood-risk areas,” the report says, adding that urban population growth in developing countries over the last two decades has been in slums that are located in areas most vulnerable to flooding but are filled with low quality buildings and infrastructure.

Wealthier cities are experiencing lower losses and deaths, although there is an increased incidence of flooding, because they have been able to invest in large, publicly funded flood mitigation projects.

In fact, the report points out that while deaths from urban floods are 1.1 percent in world’s riskiest cities, that is only for high income countries. For flood prone cities in low income countries, the death more that doubles to 2.7 percent higher.

“All these factors could potentially contribute to the large income based heterogeneity of the impact of floods that we document,” the report states. “Detailed flood maps coupled with knowledge of high and low income areas within each city could help to shed light on the mechanisms behind the differences.”

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