Vulnerability of the Lakshadweep Coral Islands in India and Strategies for Mitigating Climate Change Impacts

Vulnerability of the Lakshadweep Coral Islands in India and Strategies for Mitigating Climate Change Impacts

B. K. Khanna (Government of India, India)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1607-1.ch003
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Abstract

Strategies for mitigating climate change impact on the vulnerable Lakshadweep coral islands have been drawn up in accordance with the principles, guidelines and strategies laid down in the Indian National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC). The region most vulnerable to inundation from accelerated sea level rise (at least 40 cm by 2100) is the Lakshadweep archipelago. The first section of the chapter reviews the origin and geophysical features, climate profile, sectoral impact of climate change and vulnerabilities of Lakshdweep. The second section deals with climate change strategies and their adaptation, recommending appropriate actions for coping strategies to be adopted by local communities to be resilient against the adverse impacts of climate change. The third section outlines the Lakshadweep Action Plan for Climate Change (LAPCC) and the fourth section describes integrating LAPCC within the NAPCC, successes and challenges ahead. For small islands it is a notable case study to emulate, mitigating the effects of climate change while not deviating from development goals.
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Introduction

India has two island Union Territories, namely the Andaman and Car Nicobar Islands and Lakshadweep. Union Territory means it is governed by Union Government of India. The Union Territory of Lakshadweep (UTL), is a group of islands in Laccadive Sea, 200 to 440 kilometres (120 to 270 miles) off the south western coast of India (Figure 1). It consists of 39 islands/islets/reefs/atolls, out of which 11 are inhabited. UTL is the smallest Union Territory of India - its total surface area is just 32 square kilometres (12 sq miles). The 2011 census showed that the population of UTL is 64,473. UTL is the only atoll coral island chain in India. The Lakshadweep archipelago comprises the most extensive coral reef and atoll system in the Indian Ocean as well as being the largest atoll system in the world. Apart from harbouring significant biological diversity and acting as a breeding ground for fishery stock, coral reefs also act as the ‘natural defence mechanism’ against sea-surges and storms. The low level of islands of Lakshadweep makes them very sensitive to sea level rise and therefore the foremost threat to these island chains is potential global climate change. The islands are geographically isolated from the mainland and have to depend on it for almost everything (Pernetta, 1992). Connectivity poses very severe problems, both for quality of life and for the marketing of local produce in the islands. Shipping is the backbone of the islands. Mangalore is the food lifeline while Calicut is the fuel lifeline. All other provisions are supplied from Kochi (Dadoo, 2010).

Figure 1.

Map showing islands of Lakshadweep

The distance also affects the mobility of people for activities such as education, employment, social and religious purposes, and medical treatment. In contrast to the main land, natural disasters can lead to a complete breakdown of economic processes, extensive environmental damage and disruptions in the social fabric of these islands. UTL, being a cluster of small ‘sea-locked’ coastal territories, would experience increase in already existing vulnerabilities of the islands such as isolation and remoteness as it faces additional threats from accelerated exposure to external shocks and natural disasters. These include:

  • Sea level rise,

  • Salt water intrusion,

  • Reduced availability of fresh water,

  • Coral bleaching and breaching,

  • Debilitated functionality of ecosystems,

  • Shrinking livelihood base, and

  • Excessive dependence on external assistance and resources.

This perilous situation would be further exacerbated by high transportation and communication costs, expensive public administration and infrastructure investments and limited opportunities to create sustainable and self-reliant economies of scale. The economic, social and ecological sectors are likely to be adversely impacted and the cost of adaptation will be high. The IPCC Report (2007) predicts a global sea level rise of at least 40 cm by 2100. This will inundate vast areas on the coast, and up to 88% of coral reefs, termed ’rainforests of the ocean’, may be lost. Researchers have warned that in India, the region most vulnerable to inundation from accelerated sea level rise is the Lakshadweep archipelago.

This chapter is divided into four parts, namely:

  • 1.

    Geo-physical features, climate profile, sectoral impact of climate change and vulnerabilities of Lakshadweep,

  • 2.

    Climate Change strategies and their adaptation, outlining the approach and identifying appropriate action for expanding and broadening the range of coping strategies to be adopted by the local communities,

  • 3.

    Lakshadweep Climate Change Action Plan and

  • 4.

    Integrating LAPCC with NAPCC, successes and the challenges ahead.

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