Cities are one of mankind's greatest accomplishments - we somehow manage to cram millions of people into a few hundred square miles without suffocating them all to death or driving them stabtastically insane. All it needs to keep running smoothly is decent public service and running water.
Pictured: public service, running water.
Which brings us to the densely populated cities of Mumbai and Bangkok.
We'll start with Mumbai. In ages past, the city used the surrounding mangrove forest to drain off excess water during times of high tide and flood. Sadly, the expansion of the city as a result of the current continuing population explosion has resulted in clear-cutting those forests, building over the natural drainage. They have a man made back up system, but it's a century old and currently clogged worse than the toilet Elvis Presley died on. It also has only three outfalls (places where it dumps into the sea) that have floodgates, leaving the other 120 outfalls to welcome rising tides with arms wide open.
This doesn't include the northern suburbs that were put together with no drainage plan, whatsoever. Being that the coast is to the south of the city, this means that all the flooding and run-off they generate just effs Mumbai in the B even harder. Yes, everyone living there has basically made their home on the Titanic.
Bangkok's problems are a bit different. On average, the city sits only three and half to five feet above sea level, with many parts of the city resting well below that. Considering Bangkok is the major population center of Thailand, if a major hurricane hits, the whole joint is going under the sea, leaving Thailand pretty much screwed. Also, it's fucking sinking.
See, Bangkok is build on clay instead of bedrock, so every time a new building gets thrown up or another baby gets popped out, it increases the amount of weight on the substrate the city is built on, sinking it further. Also, the people of Bangkok need to pump subterranean aquifers in order to have drinking water, which weakens the ground beneath the clay, which, as you may have already guessed, sinks the city even more. Altogether, this ship is going down at about four inches per year, with some estimates giving it another 15 or 20 years before it gets completely submerged.
"Soon, Bangkok. Very soon."
But hey, it's not like their whole nation will wind up under water, right? So at least the people will have a place to move to. We can't say the same for...
Tuvalu is a small island nation halfway between Hawaii and Australia in the tropical Pacific, and it looks like this:
Not a word, Jimmy Buffet. Not one damn word.
It is practically the definition of "island paradise", except for the fact that the county's maximum elevation is 15 feet above sea level, which is roughly the size of Shaquille O'Neal standing on his own shoulders. From the previous entry, you can guess where this is going.
First, the people of Tuvalu have been clear-cutting their meager forests for years to provide the nation with fuel. Oh, and they've been using sand as a building material for a long time, which has caused a large portion of the beach to erode away, though to be fair there aren't exactly a ton of other options.
"Really, the sand is all we've got."
So already you have issues with erosion shrinking the island. But all of that pales in comparison to the fact that since sea levels are currently rising thanks to global warming. All that adds up to the fact that Tuvalu is inevitably going to vanish completely under the Pacific ocean.
Honestly, it's only a matter of time before the people of Tuvalu cannibalize their island until it's roughly the size of a postage stamp or the rest of the world melts the ice caps enough to drop the island below the surface like a sand castle wiped away by the tide. We're totally creating a new Atlantis here, people.
Chernobyl may seem like old news, but in recent years it's been staging a Mary J. Blige-esque comeback in the form of a continuing nuclear meltdown.
Back in the 1980s when the reactor blew and irradiated everything in a 150 mile radius, the Russians decided to clean up the mess by building a giant concrete shell over top of it (the shell was dubbed the Sarcophagus without a single bit of irony whatsoever). That seemed like a great idea, until they realized that normal wear and tear on the Sarcophagus coupled with the intense heat of the radiation trapped beneath it would eventually cause the whole thing to collapse and reopen the festering radioactive sore within.
Also, the toxic material is sinking into the ground, so the fear is that should the superheated radioactive material hit groundwater, it would cause a steam explosion that would be worse than the original catastrophe.
"So... so do we put a shell on top of that?"
Then there is the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP) in Japan, which is the largest nuclear power plant in the world based on the amount of energy produced.
Because Japan sits on more than 40,000 fault lines , the KKNPP was built to withstand powerful earthquakes, up to a magnitude of 5 on the Richter scale. Pretty solid, except that a quake registering 6.6 on the Richter scale hit just off the coast.
We should cut Chernobyl a little slack, since the sarcophagus was built hastily as radiation was being vomited all over the landscape. And honestly, if you asked most people at the center of a meltdown if pouring a shitload of concrete onto a nuclear disaster is a good first step toward fixing it, you'd probably hear a lot of "yes, do that immediately" mixed in with the agonized screaming.
The KKNPP, however, is apparently run by a dubious bunch. The plant was shut down for a year after it came out that data about the plant's output had been falsified. Then the earthquake hit and caused a bunch of shit like spilling toxic waste into the Sea of Japan and tipping over 400 drums of radioactive waste.
Furthermore, the KKNPP may very well be ON a fault line, so it doesn't take a lot of guesswork to imagine what would happen if that decided to let loose. But the company that owns the plant assures us that the potential fault line is 12 miles below the surface, so at least the ground won't just crack open under the plant.
You sure about that?
Thankfully, some steps are being taken in both cases. The KKNPP is being reinforced to resist even stronger earthquakes in the future, although if the fault line below it grows, it will all be horribly, radioactively moot. In the Ukraine there is a project underway to build an even bigger and better sarcophagus around the old one, so when that thing collapses into a pile of shit, it will at least be a contained pile of shit. That is, until it sinks all the way to the Earth's core. Then we're probably fucked.
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