Flooding — it is one of the ways nature humbles humanity with its destructive prowess. Roaring water and rushing waves seem universal in their destruction, but underneath the surface, there lies a high-risk population: those in poverty. According to a study investigating floods and poverty in 188 countries, “170 million people [are] facing flood risk and extreme poverty (living on under $1.90 a day).” Solutions to flooding are necessary to combat global poverty.
In efforts to further understand the link between flooding and poverty, The Disaster Poverty House Survey, founded in 2017, examined five countries to explore the impacts of flooding. It found that people with low incomes experienced far more flood episodes than people with high incomes, and areas much more prone to floods had lower rents by margins of up to 56%, attracting low-income residents. This data conveys a close relationship between flooding and poverty, worsened by developing countries’ poor infrastructure, leading to issues with water drainage and water damage. More so, floods’ ability to wreak havoc in dwellings, roads and other structures in areas without disposable income reveals a startling connection: Flooding intensifies poverty. Thankfully, innovators are pioneering solutions to fight Mother Nature and help those struggling by mitigating the impacts of flooding. Below are three of them.
Nature Based Solutions
There is an age-old saying, “Fight fire with fire,” and that is what the Philippines is working towards as a solution to flooding. It aims to tackle this natural issue with natural responses. The United Nations Environment Assembly defines nature-based solutions as actions to “protect, conserve, restore, sustainably use and manage” natural resources and ecosystems. The Philippines, with funding from the Asian Development Bank (ADB), has been implementing green structures to manage flood risk; these include growing and maintaining mangroves, creating connections between rivers, promoting and restoring natural river meandering and reducing erosion with vegetation strips. These green concentrated works reduce erosion by increasing riverbed stability- reducing the risk and severity of floods.
An added benefit of natural solutions is the effect on the economy and population. Green solutions create green jobs, which provide steady salaries to many. Additionally, the implementation of native flora as solutions to flooding bolsters the national food supply. Added stability to food sources is massive, considering one in 10 households in the Philippines suffers from food insecurity. The approach to tackling flooding is sustainable long-term and fights poverty — uplifting the 18.1% of the Philippine population who live below the national poverty line.
Hydroseeding is a process of planting that sprays a flurry of seeds across large areas. Hydroseeding is used with vetiver grass to secure riverbeds; vetiver is a long, thin type of grass that can improve soil quality with its long roots, typically 2-4 meters. Large quantities of vetiver grass can reduce soil erosion by 90% and reduce run-off by 70%, stabilizing riverbeds and mitigating flooding damage. While introducing a new species en masse brings up concerns of competition and invasive species, ecologists state the plant is not invasive and does not outcompete for resources, adding to its utility. Vetiver and hydroseeding present themselves as valuable solutions to flooding.
A staggering 91 million people in India do not have access to clean water. Frequent floods combine with animal waste, dirt and other pollutants to contaminate the water, inhibiting access to clean water. Poor drainage infrastructure also leaves this hazardous water roaming on the streets, which causes further damage. In response, Harjeet Nath, a scientist and assistant professor at Tripura University, invented a water purifier. The filter is around the size of a suitcase and can produce water at a rate of less than half an Indian rupee (around seven cents) per liter. This invention provides more affordable access to water compared to bottled water, which has risen 500% to 100 Indian rupees per liter. Moreover, using the filter reduces the quantity of contaminated water pooling in the streets, which can harbor pathogens and diseases. Nath’s innovative solutions to flooding will no doubt improve the infrastructure and water security of those struggling in India.
Flooding is an issue that is not disappearing anytime soon. Due to a changing climate, flood-related disasters have risen 134% since 2000. While flooding is a pressing issue with roots in larger systemic problems such as climate change and global poverty, the efforts of many resilient people have provided many solutions to flooding and improved the lives of countless people across the globe.
– Aditya Arora