Climatic Vulnerability of India’s Coastal Regions

Indias cyclone-prone-areaIndia is highly vulnerable to various natural hazards such as droughts, floods, heat-waves and cyclones. Around 76 percent of India’s coastline is prone to cyclones and tsunamis, while 59 percent of the country is vulnerable to earthquakes, 10 percent to floods and river erosion, and 68 percent to droughts.

The effects of climate change are adding a new and more intractable dimension to the existing risk profile of vulnerable areas. It is believed that climate change will alter the number, severity, frequency and complexity of climate-induced hazards. With this uncertainty, and more importantly, with new areas experiencing extreme events, it becomes critical to adopt an integrated climate risk management approach Vulnerability to climate change is determined, in large part, by people’s adaptive capacity Integration of disaster risk reduction into national and local development policies and plans is considered one of the key processes to promote a sustainable and climate resilient development paradigm. Communities, especially poor women and men, need to be supported in adopting and incorporating risk reduction concerns into their day-to-day lives, livelihoods and occupational patterns.

Climatic Vulnerability of Coastal Regions

Impact of Phailin in Odisha

Impact of Phailin in Odisha

India has a coastline of about 7,516 km of which 5,400 km is along the mainland. The entire coast is affected by cyclones with varying frequency and intensity. Although the North Indian Ocean (the Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea) generates only about 7% of the world’s cyclones (5 to 6 TC’s per year) their impact is comparatively high and devastating, especially when they strike the coasts bordering the North Bay of Bengal.

Thirteen coastal states and Union Territories (UTs) in the country are affected by tropical cyclones. Four states (Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and West Bengal) and one UT (Puducherry) on the east coast and one state (Gujarat) on the west coast are rather highly vulnerable to cyclone hazards.

The Bay of Bengal is world’s most cyclone prone region. In recent time, it saw the deadliest Bhola storm in Bangladesh in 1970 killing about half a million people. A year later in 1971, Odisha was hammered by another cyclone taking away around 10,000 lives. Then the 1999 super cyclone also took about 10,000 human lives apart from numerous cattle deaths and nearly 9 crore trees. In 1999, the damage price tag was about $2.5 billion.

26 out of 35 deadliest tropical cyclones in the world history have been the Bay of Bengal storms. In the past two centuries, 42% of Earth’s tropical cyclone-associated deaths have occurred in Bangladesh and 27% in India.

Human population is attracted to coastal zones to a greater extent than to other regions. Urbanization and the rapid growth of coastal cities have therefore been a dominant population trend over the last decades, leading to the development of numerous mega-cities in all coastal regions around the world. At least 200 million people were estimated to live in the coastal floodplain in 1990 and it is likely that their number increases to 600 million by the year 2100. Collectively, this is both placing growing demands on coastal resources as well as increasing people’s exposure to coastal hazards. In historic times, but even more pronounced in recent years, coastal populations around the world have suffered from serious disasters caused by storm floods and related wave and wind attack and precipitation. A dramatic example could be seen in the coastal region of eastern India (State of Odisha), where a severe category 5 tropical storm in October 1999 caused thousands of deaths and displacement and impoverishment of millions of residents in a large coastal area.

Global climate change and the threat of accelerated sea-level rise exacerbate the already existing high risks of storm surges, severe waves and tsunamis. Climate change may not only enhance the most threatening extreme events (e.g., through increasing storminess) but also aggravate long-term biogeophysical effects, such as sea-level rise, shoreline erosion, sediment deficits, saltwater intrusion into coastal aquifers and the loss of coastal wetlands.

Unlike many other anticipated consequences of climate change, global sea-level rise is already taking place. Over the last 100 years, global sea level rose by 1.0-2.5 mm/year. Present estimates of future sea-level rise induced by climate change, as presented in the IPCC Second Assessment Report, range from 20 to 86 cm for the year 2100, with a best estimate of 49 cm (including the cooling effect of aerosols).

6 Ways Coastal Regions are Affected

When assessing impacts of sea-level rise, it is the local change (or rate of change) in relative sea level that matters, not the global or regional average. Relative—or observed—sea level is the level of the sea relative to the land.

Irrespective of the primary causes of sea-level rise (climate change, natural or human-induced subsidence, dynamic ocean effects), natural coastal systems can be affected in a variety of ways. From a societal perspective, following are the six most important biogeophysical effects and it must be clear that these effects would usually not occur in isolation:

1. Increasing flood-frequency probabilities and enhancement of extreme flood-level risks;
2. Erosion and sediment deficits;
3. Gradual inundation of low-lying areas and wetlands;
4. Rising water tables;
5. Saltwater intrusion;
6. Biological effects.

Climate Change Vulnerability Index (CCVI) 2014

According to the latest report Climate Change and Environmental Risk Atlas by risk analysts Maplecroft, neighboring Bangladesh is the most vulnerable country to climate change impacts in the world. According to the report, rising sea levels, severe storms and other extreme climate-related events will also threaten the future of Dhaka, the Bangladesh capital. Mumbai, Manila, Kolkata and Bangkok will have the same experience.

Top 10 economically most severely impacted countries are: Bangladesh (1st and most at risk), Guinea-Bissau (2nd), Sierra Leone (3rd), Haiti (4th), South Sudan (5th), Nigeria (6th), DR Congo (7th), Cambodia (8th), Philippines (9th) and Ethiopia (10th), out of the 193 rated by the CCVI.

Other important emerging markets at risk include: India (20th), Pakistan (24th) and Viet Nam (26th) in the ‘extreme risk’ category, in addition to Indonesia (38th), Thailand (45th), Kenya (56th) and, most significantly, China (61st), all classified at ‘high risk.’

climate-change-risk CITIES s

The climate-related risks on the CCVI are evaluated three factors:

  1. Exposure to extreme climate-related events, including sea level rise and future changes in temperature, precipitation and specific humidity;
  2. The sensitivity of populations, in terms of health, education, agricultural dependence and available infrastructure; and
  3. The adaptive capacity of countries to combat the impacts of climate change, which encompasses, R&D, economic factors, resource security and the effectiveness of government.

India’s economic exposure to the impacts of extreme climate related events was recently highlighted by Cyclone Phailin. The cyclone caused around US$4 billion worth damage to the agriculture and power sectors alone in the state of Odisha, which is also India’s most important mining region. Up to 1 million tons of rice were destroyed, while key infrastructure, including roads, ports, railway and telecommunications were severely damaged, causing major disruption to company operations and the supply chains of industrial users of minerals.

You may also like to read

Lessons from the Uttarakhand Tragedy
Is India Heading towards Water Scarcity?

Our detailed PDF reports:
Lessons from the Uttarakhand Disaster
Climatic Vulnerability of Orissa

About Goodpal

I am a firm believer in healthy people (mind and body both), healthy societies and healthy environment. Please feel free to comment, share and broadcast your views -- I like rational and intellectual discussions. Thanks for stopping by. Have a Good Day!
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1 Response to Climatic Vulnerability of India’s Coastal Regions

  1. very worthful and awesome presentation

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