Climate change is a phenomenon that is no longer unknown to us. It has affected different aspects of human life in recent times. Time and again, there have been stressors pointing toward the need to delve into sustainable modes of development to avoid and reduce the impact of climate change. Ocean health influences climate change. The changing temperatures of the oceans have directly impacted human life. The Indian Ocean is a major source of livelihood and security. It is responsible for bringing in monsoons which is vital for the agrarian country. It is also a huge contributor to the Indian economy as it is a biodiversity hotspot, one that is home to several million species of flora and fauna. The key climate change indicators are the greenhouse gas concentration, sea level rise, ocean heat and ocean acidification all of which set new records in 2021, in a clear sign that human activities are causing planetary scale changes on land, in the ocean, and in the atmosphere, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said in its State of the Global Climate Report 2021. Combined with exploiting marine resources and even disasters at sea, a significant threat is visible to the rainforests, marine reefs, and other ecosystems in the region. All these threats, including the environmental threats, also have grave implications for the fishing community with millions of fisherfolk depending on the natural resources of the region for their livelihood, which is at stake in the current situation.
Communities directly reliant on the sea are direct victims to climate change. People all over the globe are indirectly reliant on the seas for their needs. With changing patterns of food due to the changes in harvesting, people all over are equally dependent on the ill-effects of climate change. Just a year ago, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) had issued warnings for India in terms of possible loss of 12 coastal cities in the country. The cities could be nearly three feet underwater by the century's end, the climate change report has warned. The cities mentioned include Mumbai, Chennai, Kochi, and Visakhapatnam, among others. With floods and tropical cyclones being a frequent issue in a number of states in India, there is an emergency which needs to be addressed. There is a dire need to look into methods that can resuscitate the adverse impacts of climate change. The increased water levels have not just disturbed the livelihoods for the people and communities at the coasts who thrive through their association with the seas, but also have disturbed fishing patterns, changes in trade routes globally and the likelihood of this is the global south submerging underwater. An immediate outcome that is followed post a calamity such as a rise in water levels is the displacement of people from the coasts to a safer place. This would be a cause for livelihood disruptions and in turn affect the development in other parts of the country with increased demands for the population in terms of housing, sanitation, employment and so on.
As India is surrounded by water all around, it is natural for the country to take up initiatives that can help mitigate the effects of climate change. According to a report by the World Meteorological Organization, more than 1 lakh people displaced in India between November and December 2021 alone due to climate related hazards, it added that India has among the highest number of people facing prolonged displacement who are not able to return to their homes after climate hazards. According to Abinash Mohanty, program lead for the Council on Energy, Environment and Water, the recently released Climate Vulnerability Index suggested that 8 out of 10 people in India reside in extremely climate-vulnerable districts. This will impact the lives, livelihoods, infrastructure and economies, triggering internal displacement. The estimates by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) suggest that 14 million people have been displaced in the last 2 decades. Climate extremities will rise exponentially in the coming decades, and will further exacerbate internal displacement across Indian districts. The report suggests how India needs to climate-proof its economic sectors by integrating granular information on climate risks and investing in ecosystem-based approaches to mitigate these harsh impacts and reduce internal displacements.
As an appeal to the policy-makers, institutions and governments, the need lies in combining forces and having a team at each tier of governance to help mitigate the effects of climate change. It is hence imperative to coordinate multiple national and state research agencies through the development of a multidisciplinary research fund focused on the coast with sharing of data and information which can help save the coasts and the communities in these areas. Establishing a local body which looks after the coastal city administration with decision-makers and officials participating in periodic training for climate-resilient coastal protection and management. Lastly, there is an urgent requirement to strengthen the link between science, engineering, biology, management, policy and economics for informed decision making using multidisciplinary teams. A better unification of science (to investigate nature), engineering (for construction design) and policy (for implementation) is a high priority. An emphasis to craft and design an exclusive policy framework for the coastal zones of India after due consultations with the fishing communities, stakeholders, scientists and the department concerned is the need of the hour. Timely awareness and action would bring a ray of hope through the dark clouds that loom.
(1) Climate Change Is the Biggest Threat to Indian Ocean Security - https://thediplomat.com/2021/08/climate-change-is-the-biggest-threat-to-indian-ocean-security/
(2) These Indian cities likely to go three feet underwater by century-end, IPCC report rings warning bell - https://www.indiatoday.in/science/story/ipcc-climate-report-coastal-cities-in-india-sea-level-rise-environment-global-warming-indian-ocean-1839061-2021-08-10
(3) Four key climate change indicators break records in 2021 - https://public.wmo.int/en/media/press-release/four-key-climate-change-indicators-break-records-2021
(4) Why we need a coastal zone protection act - https://www.downtoearth.org.in/blog/environment/why-we-need-a-coastal-zone-protection-act-62876