The spatial exposure of the Chinese infrastructure system to flooding and drought hazards


Recent rapid urbanisation means that China has invested in an enormous amount of infrastructure, much of which is vulnerable to natural hazards. This paper investigates from a spatial perspective how the Chinese infrastructure system is exposed to flooding and drought hazards. Infrastructure exposure across three different sectors—energy, transport, and waste—is considered. With a database of 10,561 nodes and 2863 edges that make up the three infrastructure networks, we develop a methodology assigning the number of users to individual infrastructure assets and conduct hotspot analysis by applying the Kernel density estimator. We find that infrastructure assets in Anhui, Beijing, Guangdong, Hebei, Henan, Jiangsu, Liaoning, Shandong, Shanghai, Tianjin, Zhejiang—and their 66 cities—are exceptionally exposed to flooding, which affects sub-sectors including rail, aviation, shipping, electricity, and wastewater. The average number of infrastructure users who could be disrupted by the impacts of flooding on these sectors stands at 103 million. The most exposed sub-sectors are electricity and wastewater (20 and 14 % of the total, respectively). For drought hazard, we restrict our work to the electricity sub-sector, which is potentially exposed to water shortages at hydroelectric power plants and cooling water shortage at thermoelectric power plants, where the number of highly exposed users is 6 million. Spatially, we demonstrate that the southern border of Inner Mongolia, Shandong, Shanxi, Hebei, north Henan, Beijing, Tianjin, south-west of Jiangsu—and their 99 cities—are especially exposed. While further work is required to understand infrastructure’s sensitivity to hazard loading, the results already provide evidence to inform strategic infrastructure planning decisions.

Natural Hazards
Jim Hall
Jim Hall
Professor of Climate and Environmental Risk

Prof. Jim Hall FREng is Professor of Climate and Environmental Risks in the University of Oxford and Director of Research in the School of Geography and the Environment.