South and Southeast Asia Coastal Cities Sinking Fast

Tens of millions of people living in coastal cities worldwide are vulnerable to the sea level rising as a result of the rapid sinking of land. Cities of South and Southeast Asia are sinking at the fastest rate, according to research by Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University.

What to Know

  • As Earth’s ice sheets melt and warming sea water expands, sea levels are rising globally, but land subsidence can occur much more quickly than sea levels rise, greatly aggravating the problem of coastal flooding.

  • Sprawling coastal cities in South and Southeast Asia are sinking faster than elsewhere in the world because of local land subsidence caused by rapid urbanization, leaving tens of millions of people more vulnerable to rising sea levels.

  • Cities are drawing heavily on groundwater to service their growing populations, which puts cities experiencing rapid local land subsidence at greater risk of coastal hazards than they otherwise would be because of climate-driven sea-level rise.

  • Satellite data of 48 large coastal cities around the world show that Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City is sinking the fastest, at an average of 0.6 inches a year, followed by the southern Bangladeshi port of Chittagong, the western Indian city Ahmedabad, the Indonesian capital Jakarta, and Myanmar’s commercial hub, Yangon.

  • By 2050, more than one billion people will be living in coastal cities that are at risk of rising sea levels. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says that global sea levels could rise by up to 2 feet by the end of the century even if greenhouse gas emissions are sharply reduced.

This is a summary of the article “Sea-Level Rise From Land Subsidence in Major Coastal Cities,” published by Nature Sustainability on September 12, 2022. The full article can be found on

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