UN warning on disasters rings true

Pre-monsoon coastal erosion, disappearance of ‘chakara’ indicate climate change

May 23, 2016 12:00 am | Updated September 12, 2016 08:05 pm IST - ALAPPUZHA:

Coastal areas in various districts including Alappuzha were battered by rough sea waves last week, destroying houses, uprooting trees, and disrupting means of livelihood. This time, coastal erosion happened ahead of the monsoon. Such untimely environmental disasters have become a cause of concern to people and authorities.

Climate change has been blamed for the frequent bouts of natural calamities across the world and Kerala coast is not alien to them. In fact, instances of strange environmental developments such as wilting of green foliage were witnessed along the coast in Alappuzha during the previous southwest monsoon season.

Mudbank declines

The mass appearance of shoals of fish, called ‘chakara,’ (mudbank) has been declining over the years. The reason has been traced to the changes in climate patterns by scientists of the National Institute of Oceanography who conducted studies. Delayed and diminished ‘chakara’ has caused considerable erosion in income among traditional fisherfolk who used to consider it as an annual boon bestowed upon them by ‘Kadalamma,’ the goddess of sea.

Occurrence of such phenomena has to be taken into account in the backdrop of the ‘Global Environmental Outlook’ report released by the UN Environment Programme, a few days ago. The regional outlook on Asia Pacific has highlighted the common environmental threats such as loss of biodiversity, land degradation, and water scarcity. These factors are very much relevant in the case of Kerala. Agricultural scientist K.G. Padmakumar, in a recent talk on environment here, alerted people against misuse of land. He cautioned against demolition of hills and unregulated mining that could change the undulating topography, affecting biodiversity.

Zoonotic diseases

The UN report has referred to increase in zoonotic diseases (that are passed from animals to humans) such as Ebola, bird flu and Zika virus disease. Alappuzha district had witnessed bird flu a year ago, causing widespread death of ducks and the birds had to be culled en masse, resulting in loss of means of livelihood to farmers.

The report has noted that Asia Pacific continued to be world’s most disaster-prone region. About 41 per cent of all natural disasters reported over the past two decades occurred in Asia Pacific region, it said. The region also accounted for 91 per cent of world’s deaths attributed to natural disasters in the last century, according to the report.

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