Lives and livelihoods lost to coastal erosion

The wrath of Bay of Bengal has rendered nearly 650 families from Satabhaya in Odisha homeless

Published: Tuesday 16 April 2019

Satabhaya panchayat used to be cluster of seven villages in the Kendrapara district of coastal Odisha. Over the last three decades, rampant coastal erosion has swallowed not only these villages but also its agricultural fields, schools, temples and sources of livelihoods.

The wrath of Bay of Bengal has rendered nearly 650 families from Satabhaya homeless. The Odisha government established its first resettlement colony for erosion-affected people around 12 kilometres inside the mainland. More than 550 families have got a plot of 10 decimal (404.6 sq metres) each and Rs 2 lakh to build a house. But the government has failed to provide any source of livelihood to the people.

The main source of livelihood for the people in Satabhaya used to be agriculture, with a supplementary income from fishing and livestock. Many of these families are still living near the coast in order to survive by fishing and rearing livestock. More than 70 families still live near the coast as they did not get the land due to lack of documents or division in the family.

The Indian east coast was a prograding coast where sediment was brought in by rivers like Ganga, Godavari, Krishna and Kaveri. But after Independence, big dams were constructed on these rivers which blocked the natural flow of sediments to the shoreline. Later, ports were also built.

These developmental activities along the coastline resulted in erosion in some parts. Satabhaya in Odisha is one of the worst hit among them. Although, climate change may not cause erosion directly, it can certainly make the already eroded coast much more vulnerable.

Odisha is one the most vulnerable to natural calamities caused by climate change-induced global warming. Considering this threat, communities living near the coast would face a greater risk to their lives and livelihoods. 

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change special report on global warming of 1.5° Celsius, India has already warmed by 1.2°C, which has severely affected the climate. The further impact of a 1.5°C and 2°C rise in global temperature will be catastrophic for farmers and coastal communities. This would result in higher sea level rise, more frequent cyclones, floods, and will accelerate the rate of erosion. It also threatens to make thousands of people living on the Indian coast "climate refugees".  

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