Maharashtra's 720 km coastline is likely to be under the spells of disaster as there is a possibility of a 1.1m rise in sea levels, warn experts citing the report from the 2023 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Foreseeing the incoming disaster, local activists claim that the rise in sea level will primarily affect the poorest of the poor living on the borders of the coastline.
Threat to coastal communities
The western Indian state has a straight coastline of 720 km from Palghar (bordering Gujarat) to Sindhudurg (bordering Goa). However, with a likely increase of 1.1 metres (3.7-feet) in the Arabian Sea levels, coastal communities will be gravely threatened, warns Dr Anjal Prakash, Research Director of the Indian School of Business.
He, along with other experts, was the Coordinating Lead Author and Lead Author of two of the six reports of IPCC-2023 in the 6th Assessment Cycle synthesised.
Dr. Prakash cautioned that important cities and hundreds of villages dotting the coastal districts of Palghar, Mumbai, Thane, Raigad, Ratnagiri, Sindhudurg, and other infrastructure dotting the seashores, could be at higher risk of floods, coastal erosion and other onslaughts by the turn of the century as the Earth warms.
Maharashtra will witness higher temperatures with more heat waves
"Maharashtra will witness higher temperatures with more heat waves leading to major health problems, severe water scarcity for agriculture, industries and homes as the state depends largely on the monsoon. Flooding will be a common occurrence. Agriculture could be hit in many ways with serious implications for crop yields and food security owing to changing temperature-rainfall patterns," said Dr. Prakash.
Regarding the direct impact of this rise in the sea level, Stalin Dayanad, Director of Projects at the NGO Vanashakti and one of the leading figures of 'Save Aarey movement', said that some of the poorest of all people, like the slum dwellers and the fishing villagers are the main ones who will be bearing the brunt of this rise in sea-level, "Smaller structures on the coastline will be the first ones to get affected which will create an exodus of people from those coastal areas. The tidal influence will extend inland, and certain areas will get inundated till the tide recedes."
He also added saying that the mangrove areas will also be inundated, "We may also face a loss of mangroves if too much water keeps coming inside and stagnates for a long time."
According to Dr. Prakash, due to global warming, we are seeing that oceans have warmed up to a level of 0.8 degrees Celsius in the past, around 175 years, or since the pre-industrial era (1850). This ocean warming has given rise to an active water cycle leading to an increased frequency and severity of cyclones.
He cited a recent study of the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), Pune, which has documented and indicated that there has been "a substantial rise in the number of cyclones and associated extreme weather events along coastal areas as compared to previous years". Though this is a very recent phenomenon - like Cyclone Tauktae (2021), and Cyclone Nisarga (2020) - they have caused havoc and will continue to have a devastating impact on Maharashtra, especially the Konkan coast including Mumbai.
The IPCC's global statistics show that there has been a decline in fish production due to the effects of climate change, and the consequences for coastal communities are significant and must be considered, Prakash pointed out.
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