25% of the world’s population is threatened by floods greater than 15 cm in China and India

About a quarter of the world’s population is currently threatened by floods “which only happen once a century”, with nearly 70% of this population living in South and East Asia, the South China Morning Post reported on Tuesday citing a new assessment published by the newspaper Nature Communication.

According to the report, about 25% (1.8 billion) of the world’s population (7.9 billion) are at “significant” risk of exposure to flooding depths of six inches or more. Among this high-risk group, 395 million are people living in China and 390 million are people living in India.

In a report titled “Flood exposure and poverty in 288 countries” published June 28, authors including Jun Rentschler of the World Bank wrote:

We find that approximately 1.81 billion people, or 23% of the world’s population, are directly exposed to flood depths greater than 0.15 metres. This would pose significant risks to lives and livelihoods, especially to vulnerable population groups. The majority (1.24 billion) are in South and East Asia, where China (395 million) and India (390 million) account for more than a third of global exposure.

The analysis noted specific areas in India and China that are particularly prone to flooding due to their location along coastlines or river basins.

An aerial view of the flood site as flooding grips Yingde in China’s Guangdong Province on June 23, 2022. (Photo by Stringer/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

“In the Indian states of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal – all located along the Ganges – a combined 196 million people live in high-risk floodplains, representing 33-53% of the states’ respective populations. […] In China, exposed populations are largest in provinces along the coast and in the Yellow River Valley,” the study authors observed.

China stands to suffer more economic damage than any other at-risk country in the world if it experiences flooding of six inches or more. Economic activity in China, worth an estimated $3.3 trillion, would be jeopardized if the country became subject to centuries-old floods, the report predicted. There is a one percent chance in any given year that such floods will occur in China.

The economies of the United States and Japan follow China in second and third place, respectively, in terms of countries considered most at economic risk due to flooding. The United States stands to lose $1.1 trillion and Japan $0.7 trillion if it were to face floods greater than six inches.

India and China have suffered record flooding in recent weeks as part of each country’s respective monsoon and rainy seasons. Chinese meteorologists said on Sunday they expected dozens of southern and eastern provinces of the country to continue to receive heavy rain over the next few days.


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