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Climate Change and The Eroding Coastal Communities

Photo credits: Rahul

India being one of those countries with very high coastline with around I8000million km of coastline homing 260 million people (1/3rd of the Indian population), comprising of around 3288 marine fishing villages and 1.511 marine fish landing centers. The majority of the coastal community are from Below Poverty Line background (around 61% of the community) employing around 4 million people on fishing and allied activities as its major livelihood option.

According to the United Nations, coastal communities are one of the most vulnerable community to climate change due to their direct reliance on the goods and services provided by the marine ecosystem. The effects of the climate change in recent decades have further superimposed stressors to already vulnerable community- thus leading to an increase in the vulnerability of the community. Thus, it is necessary to look into how climate change have increased the vulnerability of the community, while at the same time discussing some measures that could be done to improve the resilience of the community.

What does Resilience and resilient community mean:

The word Resilience originates from the Latin word resiliens, which refers to the pliant or elastic quality of substance. According to Perry (2002) Resilience refers to the capacity of a system to absorb disturbance in the society and reorganize, while organizing change so as to still retain essentially the same function, structure, identity and feedbacks. Such that resilient communities are capable of handling surprises, and are able to learn from disturbance and stress and find opportunities for renewal.

Being one of those means of livelihood that he is highly susceptible to climate change it is imperative to look into what are major stress that have increased on the community as part of the climate change.

Major stressors due to climate action:

Just like rest of the world within the Indian subcontinent also global warming have led to warming of oceans which further led to increase in sea level (15-38 cm rise by 2050 and affect 5,763 km of the coastal area in the country). This thermal expansion of sea water due to global warming- has led to floods, sporadic variation in precipitation, frequent storm surges, cyclones and other forms of natural disasters in the coastal region. Adding to it, the increased coastal erosion has further increased the amount of sewage and waste entering the coastal waters and thus increasing the level of ammonia in the water (especially in case of low swampy area), booming the pollution of sea waters and affecting the fish population and livestock within the ocean. Climate change have also led to reduced access to common fishing grounds, massive changes in the availability of certain fishes, increasing natural barrier and major destructions to the equipment's used by fisherman who are going deep into the ocean and thus increasing the vulnerability of the coastal community.

In addition to the impact that climate change has on the livelihood aspect of the coastal community, it has also majorly impacted the infrastructure within the coastal areas. This infrastructure ranges from small scale houses of the people in coastal community, to major offices and industries in sea shore. According to the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, natural disasters along the Indian coast have led to a loss of around $80 billion (between 1998 and 2017) on infrastructural damage itself, and this sum is assumed to go up even higher with time.

Resilience improving measures: