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Introduction
Global and regional context
It is a scientifically proven fact that low-lying coastal areas are highly vulnerable to
floods. Among these coastal areas, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
specifically identi-fies as hotspots the heavily urbanized megacities in the low-lying
deltas of Asia (IPCC 2007 b), which are in acute state of vulnerable appreciation.
Among Asian countries, India with its 7,500 km long predominantly low-lying and
densely populated coastlineis particularly vulnerable. A recent global survey
identified Kolkata and Mumbai as among the top ten cities with high exposure to
flooding under the current climate change forecasts (Nicholls et al. 2008).The study
also shows that expo-sure will increase in the future; by 2070, Kolkata is expected
to lead the top 10 list in terms of population exposure. What sets Kolkata apart
when it comes to impacts associated with climate change is its demographic setup
and population growth.
There are indeed some wayward climatic shifts happening that Kolkata is going
through and it will be very evident in near fu-ture. A sea level of 0.27 m by 2050
was also added to the storm surge for the A1FI and B1 climate change scenarios
based on current estimates. All these scenarios (without and with climate change
effects) were then modeled to assess the impact in terms of the extent, magnitude,
and duration of flooding (World Bank, 2010).
Kolkata metropolitan area: KMA
The designated geographical area covered the Kolkata Met-ropolitan Area (KMA), a
continuous urban area stretching along the east and west bank of the Hooghly River
surrounded by some rural areas lying as a ring around the conurbation and acting
as a protective green belt. KMA has an area of 1,851 square kilometers and consists
of a complex set of administra-tive entities comprising 3 municipal corporations
(including Kol-kata Municipal Corporation, or KMC), 38 other municipalities, 77 non
municipal urban towns, 16 out growths, and 445 rural areas (World Bank, 2010).
KMC, the core of the city, lies along the tidal reaches of the Hooghly and was once
mostly a wetland area. The elevation of KMA ranges from 1.5 to 11 meters above
sea level (masl). The elevation of KMC area ranges from 1.5 to 9 masl with an
average of 6 masl (World Bank, 2010).
With a population of about 14.7 million (including 4.6 million in KMC), KMA is one of
the 30 largest megacities in the world (United Nations, 2007). The average
population density in KMA is 7,950 people per km2; in KMC, it is 23,149 per km2.
The aver-age per-capita income in KMA in 200102 was $341 (at 199394 prices)
(World Bank, 2010).
Kolkata metropolitan area and its slums

A uniquely special characteristic of KMA is its large slum popula-tion, comprising


more than a third of the total population. The-se slums not only lack basic
infrastructure and services, but are also the hub of many informal manufacturing
activities, some of which involve highly toxic industries. Little oversight of such
activities is carried out by government agencies. These mixed residential and
commercial/industrial land uses in slums make these areas highly vulnerable to
extreme weather-related events, especially flooding and pragmatic water scarcity.
Potable drinking water is extremely scarce in these slum areas. Rickety
infrastructure coupled with extreme mismanagement when it comes to solid waste
disposal and unwanted landfills. KMAs slums is indeed worst suffer of frequent
floods and water clog-ging. The main causes of flooding in KMA are intense
precipita-tion, overtopping of the Hooghly River due to water inflow from local
precipitation as well as that from the catchment area, and storm surge effects.