A new study finds that the proportion of people living in flood zones has grown dramatically, and could be the ‘tip of the iceberg’https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2021/08/04/tens-millions-people-have-been-moving-into-flood-zones-satellite-imagery-shows/
Tens of millions of people have been moving into flood zones around the world. The influx is as much as 10 times more than previously thought, and if the trend continues on its current trajectory millions more could suffer the impacts of flooding, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal Nature.
“People die and lose their homes and livelihood,” said Beth Tellman, a human-environmental geographer at the University of Arizona and lead author of the paper. The study estimates that up to 86 million people have moved into places where there have been floods, which Tellman says is only “the tip of the iceberg.”
Tellman and her colleagues collected satellite imagery of 913 large flood events around the world, from 2000 and 2018. The database included floods from rivers, tropical storms, melting ice and snow, as well as dam or levee breaks. Researchers then compared the population of the flooded areas between 2000 to 2015.
The change in population in flood zones varied by location. In Russia and Sri Lanka, for instance, the number of people living in those areas shrank. Jamaica stayed about the same. But many places, such as Bangladesh and India, saw large increases — of up to 14.3 million and 44.8 million people, respectively.
Overall, the paper found that the population of flooded areas grew at nearly twice the average global rate. Proportionally, as much as 24 percent more people lived in those areas by 2015. Previous estimates, Tellman said, put the number closer to about 2 percent.
“If people are moving into places that flood, it’s going to flood again,” said Tellman, noting the areas they examined flooded an average of about three times since 2000. That, she said, can lead to not only loss of life and property, but longer-term setbacks in economic development. “It’s only a matter of time.”