New Delhi: Gross domestic product (GDP) at risk of flooding in India, the world’s second-most populous nation, may surge 10-fold by 2030 as cities expand and climate challenges worsen, according to the World Resources Institute (WRI).

A new online global flood-analyzing tool developed by WRI and four Dutch research agencies showed India topped the list among countries with population affected by river flooding on average each year.

WRI ranked 163 countries by number of people impacted by river flooding. Led by India, the 15 worst-hit accounted for almost 80% of the total population affected. Bangladesh was a distant second, then China, followed by Vietnam, Pakistan and Indonesia, the tool showed.

India faces more potential change in exposed GDP than any country at $140 billion. China is next at $98 billion. Using what WRI called “a middle-of-the road scenario," the analyzer estimates India’s current GDP exposed annually could increase 10-fold from $14 billion to $154 billion by 2030.

River flooding currently impacts 21 million people worldwide on average and costs $96 billion in GDP each year, according to the analysis. In 15 years, those numbers may grow to 54 million people and $521 billion in GDP affected annually.

The cost and loss from floods played out last September when India deployed 300,000 military personnel in Jammu and Kashmir to rescue 130,000 people after a week of rain caused riverbanks to burst, killing about 500 in India and Pakistan. In 2013, the worst flash floods in 90 years killed 580 and left 5,000 more missing in the northern states of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

Mitigating risks

Annual economic losses from natural disasters have almost quadrupled in the past three decades, the World Bank said in 2013.

In particular, southeast Asia faces a notable increase in risk, according to Hessel Winsemius, a researcher at Netherlands-based Deltares, one of the project partners.

The Aqueduct Global Flood Analyzer estimates current and future potential exposed GDP, affected population and urban damage from river floods for every state, country and major river basin in the world.

Attention to flood-risk reduction will be needed in fast-growing cities in areas such as Ho Chi Minh in the Mekong delta, Dhaka in Bangladesh and Shanghai in the Yangtze basin, he said.

“In changing climate in particular, memory of historical floods from the last few years is not a good estimation of what flood risks could be in the coming years," said Erin Coughlan, senior climate specialist for the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre. “People need to evaluate those risks and take action now instead of being surprised in the future." Bloomberg

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