Bahraini Cities and the Challenges of Global Climate Change: Initiatives and strategies for mitigation and adaptation

Ahmed O. El-Kholei
Professor of Urban Planning,
Arabian Gulf University (AGU)

There is consensus that climate change is a risk, which is the likelihood of losing something valuable, such as lives, properties, etc.. It is clearly stated in the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015 – 2030 that climate change is among the drivers of disaster risk. “Th e United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, represents an opportunity to reduce disaster risk in a meaningful and coherent manner throughout the interrelated intergovernmental processes” (UNISDR, 2015, p. 8). Climate change is one of the reasons of seasonal fl uctuations that negatively touch on natural resource based livelihoods (Mercer, 2010). Th e risks associated with climate change include, but not limited to, extreme weather events, such as fl ash fl oods, storms, etc.; Sea Level Rise (SLR), health risks, decline in agricultural productivity

Disaster risk reduction, climate change adaptation, environmental management and urban planning and management examine means to develop resilience of communities via several areas of interventions, particularly reducing vulnerability to natural hazards. “However, despite the signifi cant eff orts of these communities, the vulnerability of many individuals and communities to natural hazards continues to increase considerably … there is an emerging perceived need to strengthen signifi cantly collaboration and to facilitate learning and information exchange between them” (Th omalla, Downing, Spanger-Siegfried, Han, & Rockström, 2006, p. 39). Mercer (2010) showed that strategies for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) are similar to those

of Climate Change Adaptability (CCA). She argued for international development policy supporting all forms of risk reduction through integrating DRR and CCA strategies (Mercer, 2010, p. 39).

Bahrain: Small Island Developing State

Like Small Island Developing States (SIDS), Bahrain is uniquely diverse both culturally and biologically, and has special needs that must be addressed to sustain their development. Several factors are responsible for the vulnerability of ecosystems of Bahrain and other SIDS including, but not limited to, their size, geographic dispersion (and, oft en remoteness); their limited resilience to natural disasters; and their unique biodiversity. High and growing population densities in many SIDS intensify the pressures on land resources and wildlife - and intensify demand for solid and liquid waste management (United Nations Environment Programme, n.d.). In 2014, UNEP released a report outlining twenty serious challenges for the sustainable development of SIDS. “SIDS are disproportionately aff ected by natural disasters and hazards.” (United Nations Environment Programme, 2014b, pp. 5–6). Th e report calls for rehabilitating biodiversity and ecosystem services; ecosystem based management; and paying attention to the degradation and scarcity of freshwater resources; coastal squeeze and loss of associated ecosystem services; reaching the limit of land capacity; managing threats from chemicals and waste; and addressing climate change and its impacts (United Nations Environment Programme, 2014a).


United Nations Department of Economic and Social Aff airs, 2014


United Nations Department of Economic and Social Aff airs, 2014

National Circumstances

In 2014, the population of Bahrain was around 1,314,562 of which 630,744 and 683,818 were Bahrainis and non-Bahrainis, respectively, Figure 1 (Information and e Government Authority, 2015). In 2012, Serageldin et al. estimated that 88.6 percent of the population of Bahrain lived in urban areas, ; and expected to grow to 90.6 percent by 2030, Figure 2 (Serageldin et al., 2012). Currently the Bahraini urban system consists of seven cities: Manama, which is Bahrain’s capital and largest city. In 2010, the population of Manama reached 23.3 thousand, and expected to grow to 33.5 thousand by 2030 (Central Information Organization, 2015; United Nations Department of Economic and Social Aff airs, 2014). Th e list of Bahraini cities include Riff a divided into two areas east and west; Isa Town, a modern city named aft er the late Emir Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa; Hamad Town, a modern city was built in 1984, and named aft er King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa; and Zayed Town, another modern city was established in 2003 (Central Information Organization, 2015).
In 1952, the area of Bahrain was 661.09 Sq. Km. In 2014, the land area of Bahrain grew to 769.56 Sq. Km. (Central Information Organization, 2015), Figure 3. Most of these developments took place in of Muharrq, Northern and Southern Governorates,


Central Informatics Organization (2015)

Table 1. For the aforementioned circumstances, human settlements of Bahrain are examined as a major metropolitan area.

Bahrain has very hot summers and relatively mild winters. Since the discovery of oil in 1932, oil exports have been the driving force behind Bahrain’s growing economy. Natural gas production has been growing at about four percent per year. Electricity is used intensively meet the needs of an expanding economy and for desalinated water production. Water supply in Bahrain comes from groundwater, desalination, and treated sewage effluent (TSE). Bahrain has made specific progress in meeting its Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and towards sustainable development in general (Al-Jenaid et al., 2012).

Adaptation measures as means for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR)

Sea Level rise (SLR) is atop the issues that the Second National Communication addressed. To support near-term coastal zone planning, a vulnerability indexing approach was used, adapted from methods applied successfully elsewhere. Under the “no accelerated deglaciation” scenario, 83 km2, or 11 percent of the total land area, would be lost by 2050 from a 0.3-meter increase in mean sea level. Approximately 18 km2 of built-up and industrial areas would be under water. These areas account for about seven percent of these areas, about two percent of the country’s entire land area, and a substantial portion of its socioeconomic activity. Bahrain’s near-term vulnerable hotspots are located along the central portions of the western and eastern coastlines, Figure 4 (Al-Jenaid et al., 2012). The new building code has specified rising the ground level of newly developed buildings to be not less than +1.5 meters.

Another implication of SLR is the impact on ground water subject to seawater intrusion. Managed Aquifer Recharge (MAR) is the strategy adopted as a high priority near-term strategy. involves building infrastructure and/or modifying the landscape to intentionally enhance groundwater recharge (AlJenaid et al., 2012).

Climate change is a health risk. For this reason, Bahrain developed systematic databases. Information were generated to assess the influence of climate in six human health areas: morbidity, expatriate laborer health, children’s health, food-borne diseases, hospital discharges, and mortality. The results of a study on morbidity showed that one quarter of the primary healthcare center visits were climate-related with children below the age of 10 having the highest prevalence rate (about 35 percent). The results of a study on expatriate health showed a prevalence of climate-related diseases, particularly heat-stress related. The study on pre-school children’s health showed that the percentage of climate-related diseases was highest among children aged 3-4 years (Al-Jenaid et al., 2012). Based on the aforementioned studies, Bahrain embarked on elaborating and implementing a comprehensive climate change adaptation strategy for human health.


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