Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Death of The Nile Delta

I'm just back in London after a couple of weeks on the Norfolk coast around Happisburgh. It's one of the fastest eroding stretches of the UK coastline after the 1950s revetments, installed following catastrophic east coast floods in 1953, started to fall into disrepair and the sea caught up with 40 years of blocked progress. I've been visiting Happisburgh for the past 20 years and have witnessed the formation of a beautiful new bay, slowly nibbling its way into the farmland south of the lighthouse, as well as the more dramatic cliff falls and loss of houses between the old lifeboat ramp and the new bay. Rock armour added more recently has slowed the erosion to some extent but a walk along the base of the cliffs gives you a robust appreciation of the power of the sea and the futility of half-baked attempts to hold it back.

It makes me realise just how easy it is for us - to leave Happisburgh behind and head to London and its perceived invincibility. There are vast areas of the world where the march of the sea inland goes completely unchecked and where the number of people displaced will be huge. Add in the potential sea level rises from the various climate forecast scenarios and the world will have to deal with migration of populations on a massive scale. London and other major cities may well experience what is happening right now in Bangladesh, Alaska and the Nile Delta.

A recent article in the Guardian's G2 magazine really summed up the impact of sea level rise, increasing salinity of groundwater and the fragility of water supplies, by looking at the Nile Delta. Jason Larkin's images help portray an area under serious threat and Jack Shenker's report really brings home how people might only wake up to the impact of climate change when they are personally touched by its consequences.

There will be more from Happisburgh and some latest images over the coming months.

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