Herculean task ahead to shield New York from rising waters

New York, Sept 21 (AFP/APP):New York is bracing for the rising sea levels that climate change will bring, and preparations have already begun — but the long-term costs of adapting to a warmer, wetter world are expected to be astronomical.

Protective barriers made of sand have appeared in Manhattan and Brooklyn, with man-made dunes dotting the most exposed beaches, as New York seeks to be a pioneer in the field of climate change adaptation.

But that is only the start of a long and staggeringly expensive fight to hold back the water.
After Hurricane Sandy struck in 2012, leaving 44 people dead and inflicting $19 billion (17 billion euros) worth of damage, New Yorkers are in little doubt about the destruction climate extremes can bring.
But moving away from the shoreline is almost inconceivable in such a densely populated space, where real estate prices are sky high.

Instead, the city has prioritized fortifying its 525 miles (850 kilometers) of coastline as surrounding waters are projected to rise as much as six feet (1.8 meters) by 2100, and the threat of severe storms increases.

In two areas particularly battered by Sandy — the Rockaway Peninsula, in the southeastern area of Queens, and Staten Island, the city’s southernmost borough — nearly 10 miles of sand dunes have already been created, and millions of tonnes of new sand have been dumped on beaches in the Rockaways and at Coney Island, in Brooklyn.

Several billion dollars have been shelled out to protect the city’s electricity infrastructure and its aging subway system, tasked with transporting the 8.5 million people who live in the city, plus its visitors and commuters, every day.

Walls made of sand-filled containers have appeared throughout the city, especially in Brooklyn and near Wall Street in Manhattan — the four-foot (1.2 meter) tall barriers are a temporary fix, expected to last for five years as New York’s historic and financial heart waits for more lasting protection.

According to official projections from the city’s Economic Development Corporation, 37 percent of buildings in Lower Manhattan will be at risk of storm surge by 2050 and 20 percent of area streets could face daily flooding by 2100.

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