Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Planning for higher seas in Cuba

Patricia Grogg in IPS: One of the major challenges facing Cuba as it designs climate change adaptation policies is the preservation of its coastal ecosystems against the predicted rise in sea level and increasingly catastrophic extreme weather events.

With the country's 5,500 km of coastline and 4,000 cays and islets, almost everyone on the Cuban archipelago feels their life is tied to the sea in one way or another. "It's lovely, but it is also dangerous," said 78-year-old Teresa Marcial, who lives on the coast in Santa Fé, in the northern outskirts of Havana.

...Carlos Rodríguez, a researcher on land use planning and the environment for the government’s Physical Planning Institute (IPF), says 577 human settlements could suffer the combined onslaught of rising sea levels and oversized waves from swells and storm surges associated with hurricanes.

In an interview with IPS, Rodríguez emphasised that according to a joint study by several Cuban scientific institutions, led by the Ministry of Science, Technology and the Environment and including IPF, an area of 2,550 square km of coast could be submerged by 2050. By 2100, the flooded area could expand to some 5,600 square km, according to sea level rise projections, he said.

Out of the 577 vulnerable settlements, 262 have ground surfaces less than one metre above sea level within the first 1,000 metres from the coastline. "These are the ones we are flagging as sensitive coastal settlements," said Rodríguez.

...Rodríguez stressed that adaptation measures must also be planned for inland areas impacted by the combination of higher sea levels and over-height waves from the swells and storm surges produced by hurricanes....

Playa Mayabeque in Cuba, shot by Rogelio Guerra Riverón, public domain

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