via Time, 22 November 2019: Time Magazine feature on how climate change is affecting World Heritage sites. Penang’s George Town is mentioned in the story, and you can check out other climate change stories on this website here.
As the globe warms, scientists say that unusually strong hurricanes may become more common. In combination with rising sea levels, this is especially threatening to historic neighborhoods in many cities, which were often built low and sit close to the sea.
George Town, the capital of the Malaysian state Penang, is in danger because its historic area is low. The city, which was a colonial town and trading hub, was famed for its multicultural heritage, including unique and varied architecture. However, the buildings are made of wood, which means that they’re susceptible to rotting and insect damage if they get wet. Heavy rainfall, as caused by typhoons, can also lead to landslides, which can flow downhill towards historic areas and the people who inhabit them.
To address flooding, Penang has announced plans to implement a “sponge city model,” which aims to absorb water through permeable surfaces. The project proposal would include connecting green spaces to help soak up and clean runoff and constructing water retention areas and rain gardens. China has also announced plans to implement such sponge city technologies in cities across the country.