Scientists have issued a new warning to the world’s coastal megacities that the threat from subsiding land is a more immediate problem than rising sea levels caused by global warming.
A new paper from the Deltares Research Institute in the Netherlands published in April identified regions of the globe where the ground level is falling 10 times faster than water levels are rising - with human activity often to blame.
In Jakarta, Indonesia’s largest city, the population has grown from around half a million in the 1930s to just under 10 million today, with heavily populated areas dropping by as much as six and a half feet as groundwater is pumped up from the Earth to drink.
The same practice led to Tokyo’s ground level falling by two meters before new restrictions were introduced, and in Venice, this sort of extraction has only compounded the effects of natural subsidence caused by long-term geological processes.
About 10,000 years ago, hunter-gatherers, aided by rudimentary agriculture, moved to semi-permanent villages and never looked back. With further developments came food surpluses, leading to commerce, specialization and, many years later with the Industrial Revolution, the modern city. Vance Kite plots our urban past and how we can expect future cities to adapt to our growing populations.
Hong Kong's Kowloon Walled City was the densest place on the planet before it was torn down 20 years ago. In this Wall Street Journal interactive, you can take a trip through the city, explore its history and hear from the people who lived there.
As humans have developed cities and built environments, we have also needed to develop ways to find our way through them. Signage goes back at least as far as the Roman Empire where they constructed "milestones" along their roadways.