Data from the NCCR shows that between 1990 & 2016, out of the total 69 coastal districts, 23 have undergone Erosion by over 40% while 14 have undergone accretion by over 40%. Among 7 states with higher erosion, the State of West Bengal has 100% of its districts undergoing erosion by over 40%, followed by Kerala and Gujarat with 50% and 37% of their districts.
In a February 2023 reply given in the Parliament in response to a question on the factors causing Coastal Erosion in Andhra Pradesh, the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) stated that “The shoreline changes are combined effect of natural (like tropical cyclones, monsoon floods, sea level rise, extreme events, etc.) and anthropogenic (like ports/harbours, damming of rivers, etc.) reasons”
The same Ministry in a study report titled ‘Assessment of Climate Change over the Indian Ocean’ noted that “Since the middle of the twentieth century, India has witnessed a rise in average temperature; a decrease in monsoon precipitation; a rise in extreme temperature and rainfall events, droughts, and sea levels; and an increase in the intensity of severe cyclones, alongside other changes in the monsoon system. There is compelling scientific evidence that human activities have influenced these changes in regional climate.”
Both the official documents categorically record the link between Climate Change and the numerous negative impacts of the same. Coastal Erosion is one of such major impacts witnessed at a greater level in India.
Factly’s previous story on Coastal Erosion had highlighted that National Centre for Coastal Research (NCCR) reports had shown that out of the total 6,907 km of the coast in the mainland of India, about 2,318 km at 33.6% and 1,855 km at 26.9% had undergone erosion and accretion, respectively, while the rest of 39.6% the coastal land being in the stable condition. The official data itself reveals that 60% of coastal land had undergone significant changes. These changes have happened within a span of about 3 decades between 1990 to 2018.
In this story, we look at the district-level situation of the Coastal States of India which are facing the problem of Coastal Erosion and Accretion.
The data has been sourced from Dataful, which has compiled District-wise National Assessment of Shoreline Changes data published by NCCR from the year 1990 to 2016. The same data is used for analysis in this story.
None of the Coastal Districts are Free of Erosion and Accretion
India has 9 States and 2 Union Territories with Coastal Land. According to the Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS), about 250 million people, or about 26% of the Indian population live within 100 kilometres of the shoreline of the Indian Coast. Another 2021 study by the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) noted that India stands in the 7th position among the countries that are vulnerable to climate extremes. The same study also noted that more than 300 extreme events have hit the country in recent decades which are directly and indirectly attributable to impacts caused by Climate Change.
The NCCR has published reports on shoreline changes in 69 districts, including the data of UTs Daman and Diu and Coastal cities Chennai and Mumbai. The analysis of district-wise data shows that not a single coastal district in India had been without Erosion or Accretion during the period from 1990 to 2016. Notably, the Highest Erosion and Accretion were witnessed in the South 24 Paraganas district of West Bengal and Kachchh district of Gujarat at 193 and 124 kilometres, respectively. This Lowest Erosion and Accretions were recorded in Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh and Karaikal district of Tamil Nadu at 0.9 and 2.56 kilometres, respectively.
The CEEW report notes that 95% of the coastal districts are vulnerable to numerous types of negative consequences that are witnessed across the globe due to Climate Change. In confirmation of the same report, the data shows that all coastal districts have undergone both Erosion as well Accretion.
40 and 27 Districts have undergone over 20 Kilometres of Erosion and Accretion, Respectively
The data shows that some of the districts among 69 districts have undergone significant erosion by over 20 kilometres each, between the period of 1990 and 2016. While 40 districts in 8 out of the 9 coastal states have undergone Erosion of more than 20 kilometres each, 27 districts in the 9 states have undergone Accretion of over 20 kilometres in length each. Among the districts with higher erosion, 3 out of 3 districts in West Bengal, 7 out of 14 in Tamil Nadu, 3 out of 6 in Maharashtra, 7 out of 9 in Kerala, 1 out of 3 in Karnataka, 10 out of 16 in Gujarat, 5 out of 9 in Andhra Pradesh, 4 out of 6 districts in Odisha were recorded Erosion of over 20 kilometres.
When it comes to Accretion, the States of Andhra Pradesh, Goa, Gujarat, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, and West Bengal have recorded 6, 1, 5, 2, 2, 1, 5, 4, and 1 districts respectively each with over 20 kilometres of Accretion.
Therefore, the data shows that 59% and 39% of the total coastal districts of India have undergone significant Erosion and Accretion, respectively, by over 20 kilometres.
33% and 20% of the Coastal Districts have recorded Erosion & Accretion of over 40% of shoreline
The data also shows that out of the total 69 districts, 23 and 11 districts respectively have undergone Erosion by over 40% and 50% of the total coastal length, while 14 and 7 districts have undergone accretion by over 40% and 50%, respectively, of the total coastal length. Therefore, the data shows that while 33% and 16% of the coastal districts of India have undergone erosion by over 40% and 50%, respectively, 20% and 10% have undergone accretion by over 40% and 50%, respectively.
The data also shows that while 7 out of a total of 9 states have districts that have undergone erosion by over 40%, 4 states have districts with accretion by over 40%. Among 7 states with higher erosion, the State of West Bengal has 100% of its districts undergoing erosion by over 40%, followed by Kerala and Gujarat with 50% and 37% of their districts.
Climate Change is a Cause of Concern for One and All, Prior-Assessment and Measures of Control are the Need of the Hour
The 2020 MoES study on Climate Change notes that “Warming since the 1950s has already contributed to a significant increase in weather and climate extremes globally (e.g., heat waves, droughts, heavy precipitation, and severe cyclones), changes in precipitation and wind patterns (including shifts in the global monsoon systems), warming and acidification of the global oceans, melting of sea ice and glaciers, rising sea levels, and changes in marine and terrestrial ecosystems.”
The same study goes on to say that global temperature has already risen by an average of 1°C since the pre-industrial age and it is anticipated to increase to an average of 3-5°C by the end of the 21st Century. The temperature in India has risen by 0.7°C since 1901 and is projected to increase by an average of 4.4°C by the end of the 21st century.
The data also suggests that India has seen significant changes to its Coastal Area within about 3 decades. As noted by MoES, these changes of Erosion and Accretion witnessed are the post-consequences caused principally by Climate Change. Therefore, with the projected warming to be higher than what is already witnessed, the negative consequential impacts are only going to exacerbate the situation.
Therefore, at this crucial juncture of climate change-induced negative impacts becoming more aggravated, stringent and serious measures can only prevent and reduce the level of anticipated impact. On the same note, the INCOIS suggests that preparedness at the taluk/village level with the prior assessment of coastal vulnerability with respect to physical, social, economic, and environmental parameters could help combat the changes experienced and anticipated.
Factly’s previous story on Mangrove Forests, which are known to be climate resilient and combat climate change, had shown that the bulk of the same forests are under degraded status. It was also observed that if Mangroves are raised under the existing initiatives such as District Environment Plans with utmost priority, it would help arrest and prevent the level of Coastal Erosion in India.
Another story on Solid Waste (SW) generation has highlighted that the generation of the same waste has increased over the years, contributing to increased Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions which cause Climate Change. Another story highlighted how the Himalayan Lakes are expanding due to the melting of Himalayan Glaciers caused by Climate Change induced impacts, including GHG emissions. Data also shows that industrialized districts such as Nellore and East Godavari in Andhra Pradesh, Nagapattinam in Tamil Nadu, Kachchh in Gujarat, etc. have shown higher coastal erosion.
Therefore, as suggested by INCOIS, the local-level assessment of the impacts of Climate Change, and measures driven towards increasing natural resources such as Mangrove Forest cover, reducing the anthropogenic activities such as SW generation, industrial and other activities which cause GHG emissions and coastal changes could help reduce the negative climate change-related consequences.
It is pertinent to note that the CEEW report observed that 75% of all districts in India are vulnerable to different types of negative impacts caused by Climate Change. Hence, Climate Change is not just a concern of coastal districts alone, but of the entire nation.