Q) climate change is expected to raise the sea level in the future. In this scenario, what problems are expected to be faced by the communities in India? What types of preparations are needed to face them? (250 words)
- Source: The Hindu- Page 7/OPED: Sea level rise is certain
- GS 3: Environment
Introduction: The recently released Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Assessment Report from Working Group I — ‘Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis’ — is a clarion call for climate action, wherein it is expected that the global climate is set to rise by 2.7OC by 2100. This would lead to Sea level rise which can be a big problem.
Causes of Sea Level rise:
- Thermal Effect: Expansion of warm ocean waters,
- Melting of glaciers on land, and of ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica.
- Momentum: it will continue after emissions no longer increase, because oceans respond slowly to warming. The centennial-scale irreversibility of sea level rise has implications for the future even under the low emissions scenarios
Problems faced by communities in India:
- Vulnerability: Communities along the coast in India are vulnerable to sea level rise and storms, which will become more intense and frequent.
- Coastal flooding: in multiple coastal cities including Mumbai. IPCC notes that around 14 cities in India risk drowning due to seawater rise. Even the 0.1m to 0.2m rise expected along India in the next few decades can cause frequent coastal flooding.
- "Drowning" of wetland ecosystems: of various swamp species, Coral and oyester reefs are also "drowning" since they can only photosynthesize in relatively shallow water.
- Contamination: of the inland water resources, increased salinity of the land etc.
- Loss of arable land & forests: Especially in areas like Sunderbans where small rise in the water level can lead to large scale drowning of land.
- Loss of fisheries: Due to various changes such as loss of habitat, changes in the pH level of the ocean water fisheries are lost.
- Storm surges: Cyclones will be accompanied by severe and more frequent storm surges, heavy rain and flooding.
- Climate refugees: Lakshadweep island are the most vulnerable zone due to climate change. They might require to relocate into mainland. Further India may require to host refugees from Maldives.
- Pressure on Drainage system: Rising Sea Level has affected the flow of underground drains in coastal cities during high tides, especially in Mumbai and Chennai where a lot of city is built on reclaimed land. Old Drainage system which is unsuited for the overgrown city capacity and frequently gets clogged.
- Economic Loss: due to adaptation measures and cost of relocation of communities.
Types of preparation needed to be done:
- More studies are needed to be done to access the impact, not only coastal regions but also in the Himalayan regions.
- Adaptation measures: It must include a range of measures, such as stronger coastal structures(including sea-walls), construction farther away from the coasts, reducing trawling & fishing, and sowing of salt resistant crops etc.
- Better Regulation: coastal regulation should be stricter, not laxer, as it has become with each update of the Coastal Regulation Zone.
- Creating awareness: coastal communities should be alerted in advance and protected during severe weather events, natural and other barriers should be considered in a limited manner to protect certain vulnerable areas, and retreat should be part of the adaptation strategies for some very low-lying areas.
- Defending Glaciers: With measures like 'ice stupa' created by Sonam Wangchuk in Ladakh.
- Growth of Mangroves & reefs: Coral reefs, Oyster reefs and mangrove forests, all are very effective in breaking the sea waves. These must be protected and grown to defend and against excessive storm surge.
- Global partnership: The countries must move towards 'net zero emissions', with developed countries taking the lead followed by developing countries.
Conclusion: The annual flooding of India's coastal cities is an early indication of the rising sea level. According to a study about 3.6Crore people would be affected by it in the long run. It is thus important for the development agencies in India to take into account the rising sea level in the planning and construction of newer projects.