Flooding your city

On 8 juli 2015, in water, by Zef Hemel

Read in ‘Household vulnerability to climate change’ (2011) of F. Linnekamp et. al.:


What about Paramaribo, Surinam? Will the capital city of the former Dutch colony adapt to climate change in time? Searching for an answer, I found a paper, written by F. Linnekamp, A. Koedam en Isa Baud, University of Amsterdam, on household vulnerability to climate change in Georgetown and Paramaribo, published in Habitat International 2011. Especially the urban poor seem to be vulnerable. “Results show a lack of city-wide organization and participative measures for the households concerned, with possible detrimental effects on lower-income households.” Paramaribo, the capital city of Surinam, has a population of 240.000 people (2012). The low-lying city is situated on the banks of the Surinam River, at a distance of only 10 kilometers from the ocean. Mangrove is protecting the coastal zone, but over the last decades much has been cut. The case study concerned four neighborhoods in the Northern section, Geyersvlijt, Blauwgrond, Mon Plaisir and Morgenstond, the first two built in the 1950’s and 1960’s, the latter in the beginning of the 21st century.

Almost all respondents (90%) declared that floods occur in their neighborhoods during the rainy season (April-August). More than half experienced an increase over the last five years. The majority of households experiencing many floods live in low-income areas. The faltering drainage system in Paramaribo seems to be part of the problem. But also a change in the weather condition has been noticed, a change the inhabitants relate to climate change. “Many households (89%) also mention that, although it is not yet clearly visible now, sea-level rise will increasingly contribute to these risks.” The researchers found that households usually take individual action to prevent their yards and houses from being flooded. However, they do not contact local government. “The majority do not expect local government to be able to reduce flood problems in the future, although the general expectation exists that governments should take responsibility for city-wide protective measures.” But in a Thomson Reuters news item of 2013, I read that dumping garbage is also a problem. Sieuwnath Naipal, a hydrologist of the University of Surinam, thinks there is not just one problem, but a combination of many. Infrastructure and residential developments have moved to coastal areas, and newer canals have smaller gradients and are dumping ground for plastic bottles and other refuse, slowing the flow of water. WWF Guianas thinks protection of the mangrove forest is key. If it vanishes, ‘Surinam will be flooding its own city’ (Obsession Magazine 22 May 2013).

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