Study to be commissioned to assess impact of sea level rise on the State's coastal regions

With the rising sea level emerging as a major cause for concern, the Department of Environment and Climate Change is commissioning a study to assess the impact of the phenomenon on the Kerala coast.

The department has earmarked Rs.67 lakh for the project. An amount of Rs.33 lakh is to be released this year, P. Sreekantan Nair, Director, Environment and Climate Change, told The Hindu . He said the project was expected to provide critical inputs for the State to identify the vulnerable areas and evolve adaptation programmes and mitigation strategies.

The project, to be taken up by the Centre for Earth Science Studies (CESS) here, involves the use of differential GPS and satellite imagery to estimate the anticipated tide variations and sea incursions, shoreline differences, flooding of low lying areas, and the impact on ecosystems, structures and investments.

Supporting data

The baseline information is to be supplemented by the data from 10 tide gauges installed by the Department of Ports. “The data will be used for long-term assessment and estimation of water level variation in estuaries,” said K.V. Thomas, Head, Marine Sciences Division, CESS.

The project will cover topographical and bathymetric studies to estimate the projected sea level rise and water level variation. The impact study is to be completed in one year and will be followed by an extended phase covering the backwater islands.

Morphological hot spots

A preliminary investigation carried out by the CESS had identified the barrier beaches at Anchuthengu, Alappad, Arattupuzha, and Kadappuram, north of Chettuwa, as morphological hot spots of sea level rise along the Kerala coast.

Backwater banks, islands and filtration ponds are another section of the coast highly susceptible to sea level rise, according to the study. The part of the backwaters within the tidal limits was found to be more in danger.

There are 389 islands in the backwaters and estuaries of Kerala, out of which 230 are tidally influenced. These 230 islands are the real hot spots of SLR, according to the report of the study.

The investigation team comprising T. Neelima, B.L. Silpa, Abhi R. Aravind, R. Raveesh, and K.V. Thomas had recommended appropriate management plans to tide over the impact of SLR on the hot spots.

A report prepared by the Indian Network for Climate Change Assessment (INCCA) has estimated the mean sea level rise along the Indian coast to be about 1.3 mm a year, with Kochi showing a trend of 1.75 mm a year.

The projected coastal inundation due to a sea level rise of one metre in Kochi is 169 sq. km.

Since the Kochi region comprises backwaters, a lot of inland areas far from the coast, but adjacent to the tidal creeks, backwaters, and lakes will be inundated, according to the report.

Threat

In June this year, a report published by the Government of India had identified Kerala as one of the States threatened by rising sea level caused by climate change.

“It is estimated that a sea level rise by 3.5 to 34.6 inches between 1990 and 2100 would result in saline coastal groundwater, endangering wetlands, and inundating valuable land and coastal communities,” said the report submitted to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC).

South Kerala is one of the most vulnerable stretches along the western coast, according to the document.


  • Study to help identify vulnerable areas

  • Focus on evolving adaptation programmes


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