The next 15 megacities #9: Known as ‘the city of a hundred lakes’ until most got paved over, Wuhan has a flooding problem. Can permeable pavements and artificial wetlands soak it up?
Li Jing in Wuhan
Wed 23 Jan 2019
Take a stroll down the central Chinese city’s Fan Lake Road or Fruit Lake Street and despite their names you won’t see any large bodies of water – unless it has been raining very hard, that is.
Wuhan was once known as “the city of a hundred lakes”. It had 127 lakes in its central area alone in the 1980s, but decades of rapid urbanisation mean only around 30 survive.
Located at the merging of the Yangtze and Han rivers, this low-lying city, the capital of Hubei province, has always been prone to floods, especially in the summer monsoon months. The street names are often the only reminder of the lakes and pools that been filled in and built over, but in 2016, after a week of torrential downpours, they filled with water again.
As metro stations and roads flooded, 14 people died and some urban communities were temporarily cut off from the rest of the city. The economic cost was estimated at 2.3bn yuan (£263m).
The authorities blamed poor drainage and said Wuhan’s low-lying geography made it hard for storm water to be discharged into the Yangtze when water levels in the river were high. Many locals blamed the loss of the city’s lakes.