Offshore islands face rising seas

Report presented to United Nations warns that the Gulf coastline is under threat from rising sea levels

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By  Angela Giuffrida Published  January 28, 2006

OFFSHORE developments in the Gulf face the threat of being totally wiped out if scientific predictions on rising sea levels are correct. Even if sea levels rise by just 15 cm, 5% of Dubai’s total land area, or 36 km2, could be flooded. The warnings come from the author of a report presented to the United Nations by Bahrain’s Public Commission for the Protection of Marine Resources, Environment and Wildlife, on the impact of global warming in the region. The bleakest prediction is that if sea levels creep up by a metre by 2100, approximately 10% of the emirate would be underwater. “Gulf countries need to start taking action now to reclaim more land,” said Dr Waheeb Alnaser, applied physics professor at Bahrain University. “The impact of global warming is very critical for flat countries like Dubai and Bahrain,” he said. “So if the sea level increases by 20 cm, it will really invade the terrain; most of the GCC would be flooded. One of the most disastrous things would be if floods reached areas where there are electrical power stations or even nuclear power stations, like the one Iran is planning.” Global sea levels are expected to rise between 11 cm and 88 cm this century, according to estimates from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It predicts that up to 23 cm of this increase will be due to glacier melt alone, while the rest would be a result of a thermal expansion of the upper layers of the ocean. Dr Alnaser is urging GCC governments to reclaim land of at least 2 m in height, to protect their countries from flooding. “Land reclamation is important but it shouldn’t be haphazard. There needs to be a long-term plan. Yes, it will affect the marine environment but for the sake of the human being, it has to be done, and better planned.” He added that changes in the way buildings are designed and structured should also be made. This included keeping in mind the energy, atmospheric and environmental parameters.

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