The next 15 megacities #14: Surat’s battle to hold back water has raged since its first flood wall in 1664. As its population soars, India’s ‘diamond city’ needs new solutions
Look up as you walk around Surat and you might spot “HFL 8.8.2006” daubed in red paint on a wall above your head. HFL stands for “high flood level”, and the inscriptions are 15 feet above the ground in places – a fading memory of the devastating floods of August 2006, which killed 150 people, according to official estimates (unofficial counts put the death toll at over 500). More than 60% of the city was underwater and damage was estimated at $2bn.
Surat’s geography – it lies at the mouth of the Tapi river, near the Arabian Sea – makes it prone to flooding, and it experiences a major inundation every four years on average.