Kolkata: Delta Megacity Under Threat

Climate change threatens millions who live in the world’s river deltas, including the Ganges-Brahamputra rivers that flow down from the Himalayas into the Bay of Bengal. Increasing sea levels and eventual submergence is often seen as an external threat to this region. Yet local development pressures and policies may be as important in determining the vulnerability of communities to rising seas in the region. They are certainly easier to tackle, especially in the short term.

This project explores the interaction between development and climate in and around Kolkata, a city of five million in West Bengal, the Indian state that sits on the cusp of the delta, at the edge of the Bay of Bengal. How does the groundwater extraction in the city affect the land elevation and its eventual vulnerability to sea level rise? How might projects upstream be changing delta flows? And how successful are efforts to adapt, especially in the all-important rice fields of the delta?

That Sinking Feeling

Rapid development and increasing groundwater extraction are causing parts of Kolkata to subside. Is the delta megacity doing enough to avert a crisis?