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Potential Impacts of Sea-Level Rise on China's Coastal Environment and Cities: A National Assessment

Mukang Han, Jianjun Hou and Lun Wu
Journal of Coastal Research
SPECIAL ISSUE NO. 14. Potential Impacts of Accelerated Sea-Level Rise on Developing Countries (SPRING 1995), pp. 79-95
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25735702
Page Count: 17
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Potential Impacts of Sea-Level Rise on China's Coastal Environment and Cities: A National Assessment
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Abstract

China has a long densely-populated coastline. Their four large coastal plains: the Lower Liao deltaic plain, the North China coastal plain, the East China coastal plain, and the Zhujiang (Pearl) River deltaic plain. These coastal plains support important agricultural areas and tens of millions of people including some of the most populous cities such as Guangzhou, Shanghai, and Tianjin. They are low-lying and already require the protection of dikes to prevent regular flooding from the sea; therefore, they are highly vulnerable to sea-level rise. Existing coastal hazards include flooding and overtopping of dikes during typhoons, erosion, and saltwater intrusion. Natural subsidence occurs in all the coastal plains and this is often exacerbated by excessive withdrawal of groundwater. In the worst case, which is around Tianjin, the subsidence is up to 5 cm/yr (1983–1988)! Therefore, locally, a one-meter rise in relative sea level could occur in the next 20 to 40 years without any global rise in sea level. Management of groundwater withdrawal to minimize subsidence is vital to minimize relative sea-level rise in coastal districts. If sea level rose one meter, over 92,000 km² of the four large coastal plains would be vulnerable to inundation or more frequent coastal flooding, including a number of large coastal cities and an existing population of more than 64 million people. Including the entire coast of China, these potential impacts increase to 125,000 km² and 73 million people. This cannot be allowed to occur and improvements to existing coastal defenses will be necessary to protect the Chinese coast. Recent practice in China shows that the expense of such defenses is affordable to local (provincial or municipal) governments and economically very effective.

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