Mombasa is the second largest city in Kenya and the largest international seaport in East Africa, with over 650,000 inhabitants. The city has a history of natural disasters associated with extreme climatic events, most recently, the severe rain-induced flooding in October 2006, which affected about 60,000 people and caused damage to important infrastructure. Because the city is expected to continue to experience rapid growth, the future impacts of such events can only increase. Changes in sea level and storm surges are components of climate change that have the potential to further increase the threats of flooding within the city. This geographic information system–based study provides a first quantitative estimate, both now and through the twenty-first century, of the number of people and associated economic assets potentially exposed to coastal flooding due to sea-level rise and storm surges in Mombasa. The current exposure to a 1 ∶ 100 y extreme water level for the Mombasa district is estimated at 190,000 people and US$470 million in assets. About 60% of this exposure is concentrated in the Mombasa Island division of the city, where about 117,000 people (2005 estimate) live below 10 m elevation. By 2080, exposure could grow to over 380,000 people and US$15 billion in assets, assuming the well-known A1B sea-level and socioeconomic scenario. Future exposure is more sensitive to socioeconomic than climate scenarios. However, there is significant scope within the city limits to steer future development to areas that are not threatened by sea-level rise. Hence, forward planning to focus population and asset growth in less vulnerable areas could be an important part of a strategic response to sea-level rise. The methods used here could be applied more widely to other coastal cities in Africa and elsewhere to better understand present and future exposure and worst-case risks due to climate change and rising sea levels.
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Vol. 28 • No. 1A