Warming Floods Threaten 4m In UK
Paul Brown, environment correspondent
Thursday April 22, 2004
Risks of flooding are growing to "unacceptable levels" because
of climate change with up to 4 million Britons facing the prospect of
their homes being inundated, according to a report to be published today
by the government.
The report by
the Office of Science and Technology gives the most chilling picture yet
of how global warming will affect the lives of millions of Britons over
the next half century.
Compiled by 60
experts under the leadership of the government's chief scientist, Sir
David King, it shows that many towns in Britain are threatened by rising
sea levels, river flooding and the overwhelming of Victorian drains by
Future Flooding, looks forward to 2080 but says that the threat is
already growing and most of the worst of its predictions will have
happened by 2050.
As a result it
is vital to start planning new defences and making long-term decisions
now to prevent future disasters. Sir David warned earlier this year that
global warming was a greater threat than terrorism.
corridors" need to be created in cities as "safety
valves" into which floodwater can be channeled, the report says. In
some cases abandonment of parts of urban areas, with councils buying up
properties to create new open areas to take floodwater, will be
structures such as oil refineries could be relocated [inland]. However,
other assets such as coastal towns will be difficult to relocate.
and other parts of the UK, erosion could threaten beaches and therefore
The report puts
a question mark over John Prescott's cherished plans to develop the
Thames Gateway with 90,000 new homes, and the whole area east of London
which is at or below sea level.
The report says
that in all planning flood risks must be taken into account. Space must
always be left to allow for river and coastal floodwaters. In the
Netherlands some developments are allowed if they are on stilts and have
an escape boat.
The report is
the most comprehensive undertaken into the risks of flooding in the UK,
and probably the world, Sir David says, and shows that properties will
become uninsurable and many can expect at least a one-in-10 chance of
being flooded every year.
Towns on the
east coast which suffered in the floods of 1953 are in the area of
highest risk, but the danger to Britain's older cities with Victorian
sewerage systems is a newer problem. Drains are in danger of being
overwhelmed, spilling water and sewage into homes, as well as being
knocked out for weeks at a time - as happened in recent floods in
has prepared an extensive response to the report, pointing out that the
Environment Agency is already looking at a replacement for the Thames
barrier, which is likely to be overwhelmed sometime after 2030. Higher
sea walls along the embankment into London will also be needed.
government will point out that there is no legal obligation to defend
property or land at all. "The aim is to reduce the risk of flooding
or coastal erosion where it is sustainable to do so and where the
proposed defence is economically, technically and environmentally