India needs a system of regular monitoring and mathematical modelling to study sea level rise and its impact on the coastal ecosystem and marine environment, Secretary, Ministry of Earth Sciences, Shailesh Nayak said here on Friday.

Delivering the keynote address at a national conference on Coastal Processes, Resources and Management organised by the Centre for Earth Science Studies (CESS), he said it was important to look at all the components of sea level rise like ocean temperature, salinity and density of sea water and shape of the ocean basin, apart from other factors like melting of glaciers.

“Ocean temperature has been recorded to be rising at the rate of 0.1 to 0.2 degrees per decade. The increase in temperature has been recorded at depths upto 2000 metres. The shape of the ocean basin and the changes caused to it by earthquakes are other factors influencing sea level rise. Detailed studies are essential to remove the uncertainties in understanding coastal processes.”

Mr. Nayak stressed the need for a robust programme to monitor algal blooms that are appearing at different places along the Indian coast at regular intervals. “These blooms are known to deplete oxygen level and affect fish stocks.”

He said rapid development and population growth of coastal areas had degraded the environment. “The drastic change in marine transportation pattern has resulted in the development of ports and other infrastructure all along the coast. This, consequently, has increased pressure on the infrastructure and environment. The country has plans to invest Rs.8,000 crore on the development of coastal areas over the next two decades.”

Mr. Nayak said the population growth of coastal cities was twice that of other areas. Migration to coastal cities is also high, he noted.

“The twin factors of development and population growth have led to salinity intrusion, groundwater depletion, sea level rise, coastal erosion and lower water quality. The situation needs a dynamic process integrating the government, science and communities for coastal zone management.”

Mr. Nayak said water quality was a matter of increasing concern in India. “Dumping of waste water has altered, fragmented or destroyed the ecosystem and resulted in the loss of biodiversity. As many as 100 to 1000 species are being lost every year,” he said.

Mr. Nayak also highlighted the need to maintain the structural and functional integrity of ecosystems. “Half the coast of Kerala faces heavy erosion. One major reason for the erosion is the absence of mangroves. There is a need to investigate whether mangroves were destroyed or whether they were not present at all.” He observed that the State of Gujarat had a Rs. 4,000 crore industry based on mangroves.

E.P. Yesodharan, Executive Vice President, Kerala State Council for Science, Technology and Environment (KSCSTE) presided over the function. Anjan Chaki, director, Atomic Minerals Directorate for Exploration and Research released the proceedings of the conference by handing over a copy to Mr. Yesodharan.

T. Radhakrishna, director- in-charge, CESS, former director M. Baba and N.P. Kurian, scientist were present on the occasion.