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Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Lakshadweep could face major coastal erosion due to rising sea levels: study

The Lakshadweep archipelago comprises 36 islands of coral and reef formation in the Arabian Sea, spanning just over 32 sq km.

Written by Esha Roy | New Delhi |
Updated: June 22, 2021 7:08:03 am
Holding placards which read "introduce mulching" and "stop imposing fine", the islanders protested under the banner of Save Lakshadweep Forum (SLF). (File)

A group of scientists at IIT-Kharagpur, in a study carried out under the Department of Science and Technology, have found that sea levels around Lakshadweep are estimated to rise between 0.4 mm and 0.9 mm annually, causing coastal erosion in many of the islands, and possibly submerging the smaller islets.

The Lakshadweep archipelago comprises 36 islands of coral and reef formation in the Arabian Sea, spanning just over 32 sq km. The islands are characterized by low elevations, with maximum elevation ranging from 4-6 metres above Mean Sea Level and minimum elevations lower than 1 metre.

Only 10 islands are inhabited – those that the IIT scientists from the Department of Architecture and Regional Planning and Department of Ocean Engineering Naval Architecture have jointly studied.

The range of rise in sea levels has been ascertained based on different climate change models and the study has been conducted projecting different greenhouse gas scenarios. While the study has found that some islands will be affected more than others, all islands will be affected by the sea level rise.

The research has been published in the journal ‘Regional Studies in Marine Science’.

“Lakshadweep islands are already facing the impact of sea level rising which is taking place even now. But while many countries have coastal protection measures in place, and even India does have some coastal protection measures, these are not sufficient… By 2030, we expect the islands to face major coastal erosion which will affect the residents of the Union Territory,” Prasad K Bhaskaran of the Department of Ocean Engineering and Naval Architecture at IIT-Kharagpur, one of the lead authors of the study, said.

“Coastal protection measures need to be taken now. There are two kinds that the government can adopt – soft measures, that is, the creation of mangroves, which we think is more effective. And hard engineering solutions including the building of sea walls – a proposition which is extremely expensive.”

The study has estimated that the islands Chetlat and Amini are expected to face major land-loss. Projection mapping indicated that about 60-70 per cent of the existing shoreline would experience land-loss in Amini and about 70-80 per cent in Chetlat.

The island Minicoy and capital Kavaratti are also vulnerable to sea-level rise, and expected to experience land-loss along 60 per cent of the existing shoreline, the study shows, adding that the only airport in the archipelago, located on the southernmost tip of Agatti island, is likely to experience damage due to inundation.

“The land use pattern in the islands is such that most of the residential areas occur along the periphery of the islands and cultivation in the centre, increasing the vulnerability of the islands to rising sea levels and erosion. Fisheries, agriculture and tourism are the three main economic sectors of the islanders, all of which are also vulnerable.”

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