(GIST OF YOJANA) Indian Coastal Community and Climate Change

(GIST OF YOJANA) Indian Coastal Community and Climate Change


Indian Coastal Community and Climate Change


  • India’s coastal regions are low-lying and densely populated, with nearly 250 million people living within 50 km of the coast. The country has a total of 1382 offshore islands, comprising 514 Islands along the mainland coast and 868 Islands in the island territories (Andaman & Nicobar and Lakshadweep). Among the 1382 offshore islands, 346 islands are inhabited.
  • As per the Census data of 2011, there are 486 census towns along the coast of India, accounting for a population of 41.7 million constituting 20.7% of the total coastal population. Of the 486 towns, 36 are classified as Class-I towns that have a population of> 100,000 persons. The coastal areas of India experience tropical climates and have diverse geological, geomorphologic, and ecological setups.

India’s coastline: 

  • India’s coast is vulnerable to exponential developmental activities coupled with climate change impacts. Climate change refers to long-term shifts in temperatures and weather patterns. The likely scenarios of climate change and associated variability pose the greatest risk to the socio-economic and environmental functioning of coastal regions. The coastal communities, for their livelihoods, face enormous challenges from natural calamities triggered by climate change parameters.
  • Important coastal economic generation activities such as fishing, salt production, agriculture, aquaculture, animal husbandry, and other major and minor coastal industries have been affected by climate change. The coastal communities such as fishermen, salt workers, farmers, and industrialists have been directly or indirectly affected by climate change.

Sea Level Rise (SLR)

  • Globally, the rate of sea-level rise is about 4.5 mm per year. It is projected that SLR risks 10% of the coastal population living in the low-lying coastal region within 10-m elevation of Mean Sea Level (MSL). SLR is a major impact on coastal regions that cause a combination of risks in retreat, submersion, erosion, and increased vulnerability to extreme marine events.
  • SLR is a predicted consequent of climate change however, regional variations due to local subsidence tectonic upliftment and ocean currents similar to the El Nino shall differentiate the rate of local level SLR, The consequences of SLR cause changes in livelihood dependency, ecosystem degradation, reduction in potable water, an increase in hazards, and health ailments, a rise in homelessness and poverty, involuntary migrations, loss of employment, and an increase in debt. It also increases conflicts, criminal cases, delinquencies, and inequality and pave way for human right violations among the coastal communities.

Increased Sea Surface Temperature (SST)

  • Sea surface temperature (SST) is the water temperature close to the ocean’s surface. As greenhouse gases trap energy from the sun, the oceans absorb heat, resulting in an increase in SST. Changes in ocean temperatures and currents increase SST and lead to alterations in climate patterns around the world. SST affects fish migrations, fish physiology, fish breeding, fish recruitment, and habitat loss. An increase in SST enhances ocean acidification, salinity, and longshore current patterns that influence the primary production and fish stock in the sea.

Shoreline Change (SLC)

  • The wave energy closer to the shore leads to an increase in shoreline changes in soft rocks and beaches. Shorelines at different temporal scales from 1970 were studied by NCSCM to estimate the shoreline trends in the coastal stretches of India. 
  • Based on the results of trend analysis, the coastal stretches of India have been classified as stable, accreting, low erosion, medium erosion, and high erosion coasts.

Frequency of cyclones and floods

  • Resilient species have adapted to the change in SST but those vulnerable have migrated to cooler waters or have declining populations. However, there is no site-specific time series data for stock assessment for fishery biomass, biodiversity, and distribution studies in India’s coastal region.
  • The coastline has undergone physical changes throughout its geological past due to continuous wave actions, floods, cyclones, earthquakes, and tsunamis. Besides cyclones, tidal range, storm period, high tide water level, shoaling waves, river discharge, and rainfall-driven runoff also contribute to flooding in coastal areas. 
  • Cyclones and floods cause casualties, and injuries besides the devastation of coastal infrastructures, road networks, schools, cyclone centres, health centres, houses, and, other common properties which are livelihood capitals and assets of coastal communities. In addition, health hazards due to injuries and epidemics enumerate as common problems due to floods, storms, and cyclones.

Saltwater Intrusion:

  • Saltwater intrusions in near-shore areas are very common in many coastal districts of India. Seawater intrusion problem takes place in the dug wells and bore wells of households and enterprises which are close to the shore, during the summer months. The primary data of the coastal villages in coastal districts indicate that there are saltwater intrusions in near-shore freshwater sources during the summer season as most people use bore wells and municipal water for drinking and other domestic purposes.
  • Water sample analysis of the wells in coastal districts results that the ratio of C1/(C03+HC03) being contaminated in many coastal areas. In addition, overharvesting of water from coastal aquifers, SLR by variations in atmospheric pressures, expansion of summer, and melting of ice sheets and glaciers impose additional saline water intrusion. 
  • As a result, an aggravated saltwater intrusion is expected in many coastal stretches in the near future. High population pressure, intense human activities, inappropriate and indiscriminate landscape alterations, resource use, and the absence of proper management practices add to the deterioration of water resources. Similar to drought, saltwater intrusion affects the productivity of horticulture and livestock. Reduction in income and expenditure for potable water reduces the savings of indigenous communities and increases their debt. Raising the groundwater table in the fishing village using suitable methods may be one way of mitigating intrusion of saltwater in coastal stretches.


  • Climate change parameters also increase drought conditions in coastal areas. However, drought affects the coastal village through prolonged shortages in the water supply on the surface and groundwater. An increase in water demand for drinking, domestic purposes, and agricultural and industrial usage are the major consequences of drought.
  • Horticulture crops including coastal plantations and livestock of coastal communities face major problems during drought. During the drought season, coastal communities experience skin allergies and heat-related diseases.

Recommendations and Conclusion:

  • Households within the coastal community are not equally vulnerable; they may be differentially affected by climate variability and change on the basis of their level of adaptive capacity and sensitivity, which relates to their livelihood assets and strategies. It is indicated that poorer households are often less able to adapt and are more vulnerable. To tackle climate change risks; prioritisation of problems due to climate change based on the risk and vulnerability using the Livelihood Vulnerability Index shall support identifying die location-specific problems to mitigate climate change risks.
  • Coastal habitats shall be demarcated and suitable locations for shelter during the flood which are the high elevated areas along the coasts shall be identified. In the potential saltwater intrusion areas and drought-prone areas, sites for water tanks in the coastal habitats to mitigate the water scarcity problems due to climate change shall be constructed. The identified suitable evacuation location during cyclone and flood shall be informed to coastal communities through awareness creation activities, capacity-building activities, and mock drills.
  • To maintain the fish stock in the coastal zone, fish stock trends and assessments shall be conducted to develop policies and schemes to replenish the economically important fishery resources with the involvement of local stakeholders. To reduce captured fishery demand from the natural coastal environment, nearshore cage culture, aquaculture, and mariculture activities shall be encouraged with the participation of local communities under Public Private Partnership (PPP) mode.
  • The codes for the construction of buildings and infrastructure in cyclone-prone areas for disaster
    preparedness to mitigate climate change impacts should be incorporated into the building plans. Old and dilapidated buildings shall be refurbished to resist flood and erosion with easy evacuation accessible routes during natural hazards triggered by climate change. 
  • Along artificial coasts, wherever the seawalls are lost, the capacity to protect the coastal community from erosion, and climate change should be in place. Besides, continuous activities including Research and Development on coastal climate change should be conducted with regular finance.



Study Material for UPSC General Studies Pre Cum Mains

Get The Gist 1 Year Subscription Online

Click Here to Download More Free Sample Material

<<Go Back To Main Page

Courtesy: Yojana