Island Erosion and Afflicted Population: Crisis and Policies to Handle Climate Change

Tuhin Ghosh , Rituparna Hajra, Anirban Mukhopadhyay
International Perspectives on Climate Change
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Environmental Refugees are unable to maintain a secure livelihood in their own habitat due to environmental hazards, with minor optimism to return. This category includes the people who are displaced due to the disruption in physical and/or social systems, and subsequent losses or degradation of ecosystem services. The impacts of sea level rise in combination with complex hydrodynamic conditions, have caused severe coastal erosion on islands of the Indian Sundarban. In a recent past, within the Hugli River (lower course of River Ganga) estuary, three islands namely Lohachahara, Suparibhanga and Bedford completely submerged and Ghoramara Island eroded significantly which resulted in a considerable population of environmental refugees. In 1991 there were 374 inhabitants in the Lohachara Island who became landless after submergence, and were compelled to move other places. Ghoramara Island is located between 21° 53′ 56″ N to 21° 55′ 37″ N latitude and 88° 06′ 59″ E to 88° 08′ 35″ E longitude within the Hugli estuary of western part of Indian Sundarban. The major occupation of local people is agriculture, fishing and prawn seed collection. Time series analyses using multi-temporal satellite imageries of 1975 and 2010 unfold the erosional pattern of this island. Some of the distinct villages of this island are already under water. Due to the displacement from their own habitat and also gradual loss in ecosystem services, increased rate of migration in this island has resulted. The poorer people who lost their homeland were compelled to move towards mainland areas like Kakdwip/Namkhana or comparatively stable islands like Sagar Island, with little or without any token compensation from the Government. Some of the economically stable people migrated to their other properties in the central part of the Island, hence ensuring their wellbeing. This people are often still paying land tax for their lost land, with little hope of becoming compensated by either cash or land, in the near future.

International Perspectives on Climate Change

Part of the series Climate Change Management pp 217-225