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Hamburg Lets the Waters In

In response to rising tides, the city will give its river some much-needed space to breathe.
Container ships navigating the Elbe upstream from Hamburg
Container ships navigating the Elbe upstream from HamburgFabian Bimmer/Reuters

When it rains hard enough, large tracts of Hamburg can easily end up under water.

It’s a situation that’s becoming more common in cities around the world, but to some extent it’s always been true in Germany’s second largest city, made vulnerable by its partly low-lying location at the tidal mouth of the River Elbe. Just last month, the city’s Fish Market ended up inundated by high water. With sea levels rising, such floods risk getting more frequent and more damaging, and Hamburg needs to act. It’s already doing just that, with a huge scheme to raise 103 kilometers of the levees around the city by 80 centimeters (2.6 feet) to keep rising tides and seasonal high waters at bay.