Climate Change

Odisha’s climate refugees: Activists urge proper rehabilitation policy

Advancing sea puts villagers at risk in Puri, Kendrapada districts

By DTE Staff
Published: Monday 08 July 2019
The sea at Satabhaya in Odisha's Kendrapada district. Photo: Pragati Prava
The sea at Satabhaya in Odisha's Kendrapada district. Photo: Pragati Prava The sea at Satabhaya in Odisha's Kendrapada district. Photo: Pragati Prava

Activists urged Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik to arrange for suitable rehabilitation of climate refugees in the state’s Puri and Kendrapada districts and also formulate a proper rehabilitation policy for them.

Thousands of villagers on Odisha’s coast are gradually being pushed back by an inundating sea because of climate change and related challenges, members of Water Initiatives, Odisha (WIO) found.

WIO Convenor Ranjan Panda wrote to Patnaik on July 8, 2019, urging his government to initiate necessary steps to address the issues of the thousands of climate refugees of the state.

WIO, a forum of civil society organisations and experts working for water conservation, studied Udayakani and Tandahara villages in Puri district, and Satabhaya and Bagapatia villages in Kendrapada district.

The people of Udayakani village under Sisuo Panchayat, Astaranga block of Puri have been suffering because of the rapidly invading sea, the letter claimed.

The advancing sea has forced villagers to relocate thrice:

  • During the 1999 Super Cyclone the entire village went into the sea, forcing people to move to their farmlands.
  • During the 2014 Cyclone Phailin they had to shift inland again after the village got sandcast.
  • The recent Cyclone Fani worsened their condition further by making their remaining land and water sources more saline.

In neighbouring Tandahara village, even though the sea has not yet engulfed the land the situation is pretty much the same, wrote Panda, popularly known as Water Man of Odisha.

He apprised Patnaik of the current state of affairs of Bagapatia rehabilitation colony where the government has relocated climate refugees of Satabhaya — the seven villages which have already been engulfed by the sea during the last few decades.

While the amount of support given for house building is too little considering the low-lying swampy area they have been allotted, they are provided with no livelihood opportunity.


Panda requested Patnaik to take the following measures:

1.To discuss with the villagers of Udayakani and Tandahara and work out a proper rehabilitation package by ensuring them proper habitation, cropland and other compensations including right to access nearby forests for minor forest produces.

These villagers do understand the value of forest protection and right to forests would mean an increased involvement of the communities in forest protection.

2. Till the time a rehabilitation package is finalised, the people need to be provided with all basic amenities and livelihood support as most of their farmlands are already inside the sea and the remaining fields have become saline due to Fani, making it difficult for them to grow any crop for at least couple of years.

3. To improve the rehabilitation package for Bagapatia inhabitants by speeding up the provision of basic amenities such as water supply, toilets, good roads; and providing them croplands and grazing lands; ensuring them access to local forests for their daily needs, that will also help in local forest protection; and provide other livelihood opportunities in the local area so that the youths don’t have to migrate out in distressed conditions. 

Panda further mentioned that Odisha needs to prepare a policy for dealing with the climate induced displacements as many more villages in the vulnerable coastline are facing similar fate. 

He suggested the creation of a green corridor along the coastline, with mangroves and other local and cyclone resilient species to prevent further ingress of the sea.

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