Environment

Plastic Waste Creates Flood Risk

A devastating 2005 flood that killed 1,000 people in the Indian city of Mumbai was blamed on a tragically simple problem: plastic bags had blocked storm drains, stopping monsoon flood water from draining out of the city.

Now a new report, attempting to quantify this problem, estimates that 218 million of the world’s poorest people are at risk from more severe and frequent flooding caused by plastic waste. Researchers found that found that communities in Cameroon, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ghana, Bangladesh and Indonesia had experienced more severe flooding due to plastic waste blocking drainage systems in the last few years.

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New York is Sinking

New York City is sinking—satellite data show that the metropolis is plunging 1 to 2 millimeters on average each year. Some of this is natural, such as residual effects of land settling after the last ice age, and some is caused by people withdrawing groundwater. But the immense weight of the Big Apple’s buildings is also playing a role, according to a study published this month in the journal Earth’s Future.

With the land slowly sinking, the threats already posed by rising sea levels and intense storms just get worse. The city’s 1,084,954 buildings weigh about 1.68 trillion pounds, the researchers estimated—almost double the weight of all of humanity combined. Depending on the underlying types of soil, bedrock and other factors, buildings have the potential to sink as much as 600 millimeters, or almost two feet.

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