Think “Mediterranean” and most Westerners conjure up Monte Carlo or Mykonos, Cannes or Nice, often overlooking the southern coastline cities that lie in Turkey, Cyprus, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco. Fourteen Mediterranean port cities are at risk of extreme and repetitive flooding due to climate change, soils erosion, spikes in population and urban sprawl, according to a Program for the Prevention Preparedness and Response to Natural and Man-Made Disasters (PPRD South) report. According to ANSAmed, PPRD’s top eight cities-at-risk all boast Middle Eastern zip codes: Alexandria holds top risk, followed by Istanbul, Benghazi, Casablanca, Smyrna, Algiers, Rabat, and Beirut.
European cities of Marseille-Aix-en-Provence, Barcelona, Tripoli, Athens and Naples bring up the rear of the riskiest waterfronts, but we head back to the MidEast for the finale – roll up your pant legs, Tel Aviv-Jaffa.
The World Bank offers a bleaker prediction, stating rising sea level could affect 43 port cities: 24 in the Middle East and 19 in North Africa. It ventures that a 0.5 meter rise near Alexandria would displace more than 2 million people, with $35 billion in losses in land, property, and infrastructure, as well as incalculable losses of cultural assets.
Rising sea levels and temperatures are predicted to incite increased storms, putting these coastal cities at high risk of experiencing extreme “hundred year floods” (floods of such severity that scientists would estimate them occurring only once in any given century).
The PPRD report, which was commissioned by the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, warned that rapid urbanization will see populations in these cities tripling by 2070.
The Mediterranean Sea is increasingly at risk on every level: 30% of the world’s cargo ships sail it, including 25% of the global oil tanker fleet. Millions of people depend upon this waterbody for their livelihoods.
Last week in Calabria, Italy, a one-day conference entitled The Future of Mediterranean Economies and the Promise of Green Economy was held to discuss this subject along with a broader agenda of sustainable development in the Mediterranean region. Experts joined together to devise ways to reduce man-made wastes, switch fossil-fuel based economies to ones based on renewable energy, and introduce sustainable development in the poorest coastal areas.
Good stuff, but we need to widen the focus on this looming dilemma: this trickle of attentiveness won’t stem rising tides.
Image of flooded pyramids by Shutterstock