Mapped: Countries With the Highest Flood Risk
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Mapped: Countries With the Highest Flood Risk

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Population Flood Risk

Risk of Flooding Mapped Around the World

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Devastating floods across Pakistan this summer have resulted in more than 1,400 lives lost and one-third of the country being under water.

This raises the question: which nations and their populations are the most vulnerable to the risk of flooding around the world?

Using data from a recent study published in Nature, this graphic maps flood risk around the world, highlighting the 1.81 billion people directly exposed to 1-in-100 year floods. The methodology takes into account potential risks from both inland and coastal flooding.

Asian Countries Most at Risk from Rising Water Levels

Not surprisingly, countries with considerable coastlines, river systems, and flatlands find themselves with high percentages of their population at risk.

The Netherlands and Bangladesh are the only two nations in the world to have more than half of their population at risk due to flooding, at 59% and 58%, respectively. Vietnam (46%), Egypt (41%), and Myanmar (40%) round out the rest of the top five nations.

Besides the Netherlands, only two other European nations are in the top 20 nations by percentage of population at risk, Austria (18th at 29%) and Albania (20th at 28%).

RankCountryFlood risk, by population exposed (%)Total population exposed
#1🇳🇱 Netherlands58.7%10,100,000
#2🇧🇩 Bangladesh57.5%94,424,000
#3🇻🇳 Vietnam46.0%45,504,000
#4🇪🇬 Egypt40.5%38,871,000
#5🇲🇲 Myanmar39.9%19,104,000
#6🇱🇦 Laos39.7%2,985,000
#7🇰🇭 Cambodia38.1%7,431,000
#8🇬🇾 Guyana37.9%276,000
#9🇸🇷 Suriname37.7%233,000
#10🇮🇶 Iraq36.8%16,350,000
#11🇹🇭 Thailand33.9%25,431,000
#12🇸🇸 South Sudan32.5%5,437,000
#13🇵🇰 Pakistan31.1%71,786,000
#14🇳🇵 Nepal29.4%11,993,000
#15🇨🇬 Republic of the Congo29.3%1,170,000
#16🇵🇭 Philippines29.0%30,483,000
#17🇯🇵 Japan28.7%36,060,000
#18🇦🇹 Austria27.8%2,437,000
#19🇮🇳 India27.7%389,816,000
#20🇦🇱 Albania27.6%771,000
#21🇨🇳 China27.5%394,826,000
#22🇹🇩 Chad27.4%4,547,000
#23🇮🇩 Indonesia27.0%75,696,000
#24🇭🇷 Croatia26.9%1,094,000
#25🇸🇰 Slovakia26.7%1,401,000

The Southeast Asia region alone makes up more than two-thirds of the global population exposed to flooding risk at 1.24 billion people.

China and India account for 395 million and 390 million people, respectively, with both nations at the top in terms of the absolute number of people at risk of rising water levels. The rest of the top five countries by total population at risk are Bangladesh (94 million people at risk), Indonesia (76 million people at risk), and Pakistan (72 million people at risk).

How Flooding is Already Affecting Countries Like Pakistan

While forecasted climate and natural disasters can often take years to manifest, flooding affected more than 100 million people in 2021. Recent summer floods in Pakistan have continued the trend in 2022.

With 31% of its population (72 million people) at risk of flooding, Pakistan is particularly vulnerable to floods.

In 2010, floods in Pakistan were estimated to have affected more than 18 million people. The recent floods, which started in June, are estimated to have affected more than 33 million people as more than one-third of the country is submerged underwater.

The Cost of Floods Today and in the Future

Although the rising human toll is by far the biggest concern that floods present, they also bring with them massive economic costs. Last year, droughts, floods, and storms caused economic losses totaling $224.2 billion worldwide, nearly doubling the 2001-2020 annual average of $117.8 billion.

A recent report forecasted that water risk (caused by droughts, floods, and storms) could eat up $5.6 trillion of global GDP by 2050, with floods projected to account for 36% of these direct losses.

As both human and economic losses caused by floods continue to mount, nations around the world will need to focus on preventative infrastructure and restorative solutions for ecosystems and communities already affected and most at risk of flooding.

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Water

Mapping the World’s River Basins by Continent

Where does each river start, converge, and end? This series of maps traces river basins in each continent around the world.

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Maps of the world's river basins in each continent

There are hundreds of rivers on Earth’s surface, moving freshwater from hills and mountains down to larger rivers, lakes, and oceans.

Thanks to the planet’s natural slopes and ridges, falling rain that isn’t absorbed by soil or evaporated also ends up in nearby rivers. This area—where all flowing surface water converges—is called a river basin, drainage basin, or watershed.

These maps by Adam Symington show the world’s many rivers and major river basins, using the HydroSHEDS database and broken down by continent.

Mapping River Basins By Continent

The Americas

map of river drainage basins in North America

North and Central America have many different river basins, but a few major rivers stand out.

To the North, Canada’s Mackenzie River runs from British Columbia through the Northwest Territories and ending up at the Arctic Ocean.

Of course, the Mississippi River and the Missouri River which flows into it both stand out as well, draining water from much of the U.S. to the Gulf of Mexico.

A few rivers and basins also start in the U.S. and end up in Mexico, including the Rio Grande from Colorado to Tamaulipas. Further south in Central America and the Caribbean, most of the basins don’t have major rivers and empty into the nearby oceans.

map of river drainage basins in South America

It’s well-known that the Amazon River is the largest river in the world by volume and the second largest by length.

Likewise, its reach and impact can be seen in these maps. The Amazon basin is the largest river basin in the world with an area of 6,300,000 km², covering just over one-third of the entire South American continent.

That is almost double the sizable Río de la Plata basin, the 5th largest river basin in the world, which includes the Uruguay River and the Paraná River and meets at the border between Uruguay and Argentina.

Europe and Africa

map of river drainage basins in Europe

Despite being the second smallest continent, Europe’s proximity to many different bodies of water and great variation of terrain in small areas gives it many different drainage basins.

But a few notable rivers stand out in Central and Eastern Europe. The Danube, a historically important trade route and once a frontier of the Roman Empire, originates in Germany and flows eastwards to the Black Sea, passing through 10 total countries.

The longest river in Europe, the Volga in Russia, is also the cornerstone of the continent’s largest river basin, draining into the Caspian Sea. Its tributaries include the Moskva which runs through Moscow in Western Russia before flowing eastwards.

map of river drainage basins in Africa

One of Africa’s most notable features is the lack of drainage in the Sahara Desert. But the continent also has a few clear major river systems, including two of the world’s largest rivers.

In the northeast, the Nile River is the world’s longest river, flowing from Lake Victoria and Lake Tana in the south to Egypt and the Mediterranean Sea. In total, its basin covers 11 countries.

In Central Africa, the Congo River (formerly the Zaire River) is the second largest river in the world by volume. It also is central to the Congo Basin, the second largest river basin with an area of 4,014,500 km².

And in West Africa, the Niger River creates a crescent shaped basin from the Guinea Highlands, northeast to Mali, then southwest through Niger and Nigeria. It ends in the massive (and massively important and populated) Niger Delta.

Asia and Oceania

map of river drainage basins in Asia

The world’s largest continent also has one of the largest varieties of river basins. From large sweeping basins in North Asia, to deserts in mountainous Central Asia and the Arabian Peninsula, to the multitude of basins draining into the Indian Ocean.

One of the major standouts is the Yangtze in China, the world’s third-longest river and largest plastic emitting river. Flowing from the Tibetan Plateau to the East China Sea, its wide basin covers one-fifth of China’s land area and one-third of its population.

The largest by volume is the Ganges–Brahmaputra–Meghna system, three major rivers running through India, China, Nepal, and Bangladesh. Their combined basin is home to around 400 million people, making it the most populous river basin in the world, ultimately draining into the Ganges Delta and ending up at the Bay of Bengal.

But the largest river basins in Asia are those of the “great Siberian rivers,” the Ob, the Yenisei, and the Lena, which all flow north to the Arctic Ocean.

map of river drainage basins in Oceania

Comprised of many archipelagos and islands with a high ratio of coast along the Pacific Ocean, Oceania understandably has fewer long rivers and major river basins.

But there are still a few standouts, especially in the deserts of Australia. The Murray–Darling basin in the country’s southeast includes six of Australia’s seven longest rivers (including the namesake Murray), draining west to the Southern Ocean near Adelaide.

Towards the center of the country is the Lake Eyre basin, which covers 1,210,000 km² or just under one-sixth of the country’s landmass. This mostly flat and often dry basin drains into Lake Eyre, Australia’s largest lake, which only fills up with water about four times a century.

If you want to see higher resolution versions of these maps and do more river exploration for yourself, head to the PythonMaps Twitter. For full-size prints, check out the PythonMaps Etsy.

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