Drinking water vulnerability to climate change and alternatives for adaptation in coastal South and South East Asia

Mo Hoque*, P. F. D. Scheelbeek, P. Vineis, A. E. Khan, K. M. Ahmed, A. P. Butler

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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    Abstract

    Drinking water in much of Asia, particularly in coastal and rural settings, is provided by a variety of sources, which are widely distributed and frequently managed at an individual or local community level. Coastal and near-inland drinking water sources in South and South East (SSE) Asia are vulnerable to contamination by seawater, most dramatically from tropical cyclone induced storm surges. This paper assesses spatial vulnerabilities to salinisation of drinking water sources due to meteorological variability and climate change along the (ca. 6000 km) coastline of SSE Asia. The risks of increasing climatic stresses are first considered, and then maps of relative vulnerability along the entire coastline are developed, using data from global scale land surface models, along with an overall vulnerability index. The results show that surface and near-surface drinking water in the coastal areas of the mega-deltas in Vietnam and Bangladesh-India are most vulnerable, putting more than 25 million people at risk of drinking ‘saline’ water. Climate change is likely to exacerbate this problem, with adverse consequences for health, such as prevalence of hypertension and cardiovascular diseases. There is a need for identifying locations that are most at risk of salinisation in order for policy makers and local officials to implement strategies for reducing these health impacts. To counter the risks associated with these vulnerabilities, possible adaptation measures are also outlined. We conclude that detailed and fine scale vulnerability assessments may become crucial for planning targeted adaptation programmes along these coasts.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)247-263
    Number of pages17
    JournalClimatic Change
    Volume136
    Issue number2
    Early online date24 Feb 2016
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2016

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